May 26 2013 Latest news:
Joshua Fowler, Reporter
Thursday, May 3, 2012
The new £7.6 million sports arena in Barkingside was given the royal seal of approval as the Duke of Gloucester visited to mark the official opening today.
The Jean Brown Indoor Arena, Forest Road, Barkingside was filled with sporting names for the event, including Sir Trevor Brooking, ex-England goalkeeper Ray Clemence and former West Ham United chairman Terence Brown.
Marking the 40th anniversary of Redbridge Sports Centre, the Duke viewed the Olympic standard facilities in action with badminton, netball and dance sessions all on display.
Redbridge Sports and Leisure Capital Appeal Board chair Paul Clark guided the Duke around the arena, which he first visited in 2009, and claimed the build up had been a “marathon”.
He added: “To bring something of this quality to this community is an immense achievement.
“It has been a long and arduous journey. But many people have made contributions that have allowed us to reach this point.
“I hope it will encourage more people to try out a sport and get fit.”
The centre is one of 15 games time training venues across the capital and will play host to badminton and Paralympic goalball athletes, while wrestling and judo competitors will use the original centre next door.
Funded in part by Terence Brown, the naming of the arena was kept secret from his wife Jean until the morning of the official opening.
Mrs Brown said: “It was a complete surprise. I had absolutely no idea until I saw the sign and it took a little while to register.
“People were saying it’s been in the papers and on the internet, but I don’t go online.”
Olympic training will mean the sports hall will close to the public in mid-July until September, though Mayor of Redbridge Cllr Chris Cummin believes the arena has already started putting the borough on the map.
He said: “It was a great honour to have the Duke here for the opening. The arena has already been used for a high prestige table tennis event and once word gets round, it will be recognised as a reputable venue.”