A couple of weeks ago the South London Press reported that the Council was looking for community and sports groups to take over the management of Ladywell Arena (the athletics track and gym on the Catford side of Ladywell Fields).
I was a bit alarmed about what this meant – was the Council still committed to keeping the arena open, or was it planning to offload it in a bid to cut costs, along with the libraries, children’s centres etc? So I wrote to the Council and asked for a bit more information - whether the article was just testing the water or if a formal decision to transfer the management had been taken, how the proposal fitted in with the Council's Leisure contract and what the cost of maintaining the facility at Ladywell Arena is. I received the following response:
“The Council is currently out to tender for its main leisure contract which expires in mid October 2011. As part of that tender we are asking prospective leisure operators to cost the operation of the Arena along with other leisure centres. However, there has been interest from local organisations in the principle of the Arena being managed by a locally based organisation, given its specific focus on athletics and football. The Council is therefore running a parallel process and asking if there is interest from local organisations with both bidding processes ending around the same time, so giving the Council an opportunity to assess the value ( in terms of best value), of both.
The leisure procurement process was agreed by Mayor and Cabinet contracts on 3rd March 2010 and that is underway. This additional proposal to undertake a parallel process in terms of the Arena has been highlighted in the Invitation to Tender to Leisure contracts so that bidders for the main contract are aware.
So, in that way we are 'testing the water' on this. The potential community lease of the Arena does include the Gym. The current cost to the Council for managing the facility is approximately £185,320 per year (this changes with GDP each year).”
Meanwhile, local residents concerned that this might be a backdoor way of closing the arena to public use (although I'm not sure that it is), have set up a Facebook page with a “Petition to save Ladywell Arena”.