Gators in training switch

PHOTO. KEVIN McGUINNESS       'Some of the members of Garstang Gators Swimming Club
PHOTO. KEVIN McGUINNESS 'Some of the members of Garstang Gators Swimming Club

SWIMMERS from Garstang are preparing to switch some training to a new state-of-the-art pool in Lancaster, after outgrowing local facilities.

The burgeoning Garstang Amateur Swimming Club (GASC) – known as Garstang Gators – has become a victim of its own success, and its 150 members are struggling to find the space and training time they require at the Garstang pool on Birch Road.

The club say it has no intention of quitting Garstang completely, but is looking to ease the pressure by switching some training to the 25m pool at the new £20 million Lancaster University sports centre.

Over its 40-year history, GASC has developed a number of swimmers who have gone on to compete and win medals at regional level.

And its reputation has ensured a growing membership – which has led to growing problems trying to get everyone sufficient pool time.

Head coach Ian Kirk says that the club only has a few hours of training time allocated on Friday and Sunday evenings, and Saturday mornings, which has meant some overcrowded sessions in the 20m long, four-lane wide Garstang pool.

“More swimmers are sticking around,” says Ian Kirk, “which is a really good thing, don’t get me wrong, but it does create a backlog of swimmers.

“Ideally, we could do with a 25m pool, a gym and café area. A facility like that would help us prepare for competitions better, monitor swimmers’ times properly, give more room and training to swimmers, and attract more people and income.

“However, I fear in these hard economic times there will be little backing for such a facility.”

“It just keeps getting busier and busier,” says Sarah Wilson, a parent of two swimmers. “We need more training time, or a bigger pool.”

Swimmer Josh Hulme says: “There’s all that space at the back, so we would certainly have room for a bigger pool, but we might not have the money.”

Wyre Borough Council is conducting a full review of leisure facilities this year, including a public consultation where everyone can share their views, but it is unlikely the revenue would be available from public funds for a bigger pool in Garstang in the near future.

“Moving some sessions to Lancaster certainly doesn’t mean we’ll be leaving Garstang,” assures Ian Kirk. “But it will help cut the numbers in sessions, and will be great for the swimmers.”

“It doesn’t really matter about the size of Garstang’s pool, as long as we get some training in a 25m pool,” added GASC swimmer Tom Eccles.

GASC was started by Frank McKean in the late 60s. He was also instrumental in getting the Birch Road pool opened. Mr McKean identified the need for young children to be taught how to swim, and launched a campaign to get a swimming pool built in Garstang.

He started a petition and raised £25,000 through fund-raising, with the council also contributing to the facility.