From Humble Beginnings to World Stage..
Wind the clock back to 1976…
There wasn’t a gymnastics club anywhere on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Luckily a local couple, Neville and Sue Marsh recognized a need, so along with their daughter and a few other children and parents, they started writing the first chapter of what is now one of the most successful Community Owned and Not-for-Profit sporting stories ever written.
In 1978, Manly Warringah Gymnastics Club (MWGC) was officially formed.
Over the next few years, MWGC rented space in a local high school hall and operated 5 days a week as a set up and pack down community club. It wasn’t long before more children and families joined the program, and soon it became clear the club was developing into something unique. Over the following few years interest and numbers had increased to a point where more space and equipment was needed. So the club was packed up and moved to Allambie Heights Community Centre, where again it was a set up pack down everyday affair. Interest in Gymnastics continued to grow, 100 members became 150 members, and it was clear that a permanent gymnastics set up for girls and boys would be the only answer.
Wind the clock forward 20 years…
With the same community spirit and determination, MWGC proudly opened its own doors in a small, rented factory unit in Centre Industries, a part of the Spastic Centre of NSW complex at Allambie Heights.
The move to more space and improved equipment allowed growth to reach 250 members, until sadly in 2006 the club was closed due to asbestos contamination in an adjacent building. But with the same determination, Neville, Sue, and a team of dedicated families salvaged what they could and managed to reopen 3 months later. By December 2007 memberships had increased to 500 when disaster struck again… MWGC was destroyed by fire. Discussions with Council began immediately to find a permanent home, but that goal was not going to eventuate soon enough.
Over the 2007/2008 Christmas New Year holiday break, a group of members and committee met to discuss what options existed, commercial options were limited but one thing was clear, as hard as a new start was, it had to happen. A bigger and better warehouse was found in Aquatic Drive. It wasn’t long before a team of local builders and volunteers rallied together to fit out a new club that would over the next 3 years reach capacity with 900 budding gymnasts involved in programs running 7 days a week.
MWGC was now recognised as a serious contender at State and National podium events, its coaching team was considered as one of the best, and the club was on its way to becoming one of the most successful Gymnastics Clubs in Australia, and once again demand called for another move.
In October 2011 a new lease was signed for 2,700m2 in Middleton Rd Cromer, and within 2 years memberships had passed the 2,000 mark. Despite all this growth and success, it was clear that paying more than $350k each year could only be a short-term option. If the club was to secure its future, a permanent home was needed, and the search continued.
Between 2008 and 2018 MWGC invested savings and energy in 7 different applications for land to establish a permanent home, locations included land adjacent to Forestville RSL, the Warringah Aquatic Centre, the Sydney Academy of Sport at Narrabeen, Cromer Park, Dee Why Bowling Club, and a joint venture on land at Cromer High School, unfortunately all these efforts came and passed without success. At this stage the club’s membership had hit 2,500, but the commercial rent had risen to $450k p.a + outgoings. Affordability had become a serious burden.
In 2019 Northern Beaches Council released a public request for organisations to provide concepts for how the vacant North Manly Bowling Club site could be best utilised for the local community. The community spoke, and the outcome was a subsequent Expression of Interest directed at six sports, one being gymnastics.
In May of 2021 MWGC submitted a detailed proposal to build a 4,000m2 purpose-built gymnastics and multi-sport Centre of Excellence, and on the 24th of August 2022, MWGC’s new facility was announced as the successful bid. Since that moment MWGC has been awarded grant funding of $5.15 million through the NSW Office of Sport Center of Excellence Fund. MWGC is finally on the way to the world stage, and the people of the Northern Beaches were set to receive the biggest boost to local sport in more than 20 years. The $10.3m state of the art facility will become home to an estimated 3,500 members by the time the Olympic Games are held in Brisbane 2032.
There are still two challenges to be overcome, one being able to meet the next 18 months of current rent costs of $540k p.a., the other being the final part of the funding. The Office of Sport grant and hard-earned savings total 60% of the project, the remaining 40% remains to be secured.
With your support we will write the next chapter of this incredible story, we hope you will be part of that journey…
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