Grimy changing rooms, mouldy toilets, leaky taps, dead mice – the list goes on. In fact, Finsbury Park hadn’t even seen as much as a lick of paint in decades.
How many clubs up and down the country face these same challenges on a wet and wild training night? Many more than you think.
Better facilities are just one part of the jigsaw in improving the image and fortunes of grassroots athletics – and one club in North London is looking to put the final piece in theirs and, in the process, highlight how other clubs can do the same.
Grassroots community club London Heathside are running a crowdfunding campaign to raise £6,000 for a feasibility study into building a new pavilion for their recently upgraded Finsbury Park home.
With only nine days to go, the club is now just a little under £500 from reaching its target – and creating a new hub for athletics and the wider community.
Club chairman and stalwart, Jerry Odlin, believes the new clubhouse will be more than just a nice new building.
‘What we really need now is a new clubhouse to bring us into the 21st century,’ says Jerry. ‘We want the new pavilion to go alongside our great new track and become a modern community building.
“The idea is for it to become a community hub and a place for everyone.’
The proposed new clubhouse will include changing rooms and shower facilities, a gym area as well as a multi-purpose community room for meetings, classes and events.
Primarily, it’ll catapult athletics in the local area into the 21st century – and compared to the current 1970s concrete ‘carbuncle’, complete with showers so gross there’s no record of anyone using them and the occasional dead mouse in the entrance-way, the upgrade is long overdue.
The track isn’t just the home of a growing athletics club but also the heart of the local sporting community.
Clubs that call the track their home include London Blitz, an American Football club that boasts up to 2,000 supporters at their home games on the infield of the track, Dynamic Fitness Academy and Access to Sport, an initiative that encourages and enables disabled people to take part in sport.
It is through this partnership that they were able to rebuild the track in the first place.
With the track covered in moss and crumbling at the edges three years ago, the facility almost bit the dust completely when the council decided it was no longer cost-effective to keep it open.
An ultimatum was issued and the Finsbury Park Sports Partnership that comprises the aforementioned clubs was born.
The volunteer-led charitable organisation took control of the running of the weary facility and, after three years, sought funding to rebuild the worn-out track.
Thanks to major investment from the London Marathon, along with help from Lord Mayor’s Fund, Sport England and England Athletics, the track was upgraded and reopened last month.
Now all that is needed now to go alongside the shiny new ‘London Marathon Track at Finsbury Park’ – complete with a 10 lane home straight, electronic timing and photo finish facilities – is a new pavilion to match.
Only then will London Heathside and the local sporting community have the facilities they can be proud of.
Help London Heathside achieve their goal and donate to their crowdfunding page here.
Words by Hannah Viner
Image from London Heathside