Wolverhampton sports centre to shut after row over rent
A charity is being forced to close a popular sports centre in Wolverhampton which attracts more than 1,500 people a week due to a rent hike of a third.
Wolverhampton Indoor Community Sports, based in Racecourse Road, will shut its doors for the final time on Sunday.
Bosses at the centre, which has been open for 30 years, say their hand has been forced by a rise in rent, from £48,000 a year to £64,000.
The centre is used by cricket teams as well as darts and indoor football players. It also provides active play equipment for children in the area, which has a high obesity rate.
Trustee Tam Jagpal said: "We have tried to negotiate with the landlords, even offering to meet the full cost over five years, but they have told us the immediate rise is not negotiable.
"We're obviously devastated to be closing, but also sorry for the thousands of people who use the centre which has provided a platform for local sports talent."
Last month, the centre played host to a major darts tournament, attracting 300 players. It also held a weekend-long youth festival for hundreds of children.
Mr Jagpal said: "I don't want to be critical of the landlords and leave over sour grapes. But we are in the situation we are in and that is not sustainable.
"People have booked parties and we stage regular international darts tournament.
"This centre has been here for over 30 years and is officially in one of of the most deprived areas in the UK.
"It is a terrible blow for residents, who use it for children's parties and other events."
The centre has indoor cricket and football pitches, a play area and a darts arena used for leagues during the week. Disabled players are also allowed in.
There is also a bar and gaming machines.
Kenrick Smart uses the centre for his four foster children and two children.
The 40-year-old said: "This place is invaluable to the community.
"It is absolutely devastating that it will close as it is the heart of local community life."
Mr Jagpal was originally told he would have to close at the end of June, but due to bookings he managed to get his stay extended until Sunday.