Mark Hall Sports Centre preparing to reopen on March 29

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A socially distanced ‘SWEAT Harlow’ class at Mark Hall Sports Centre.

MARK HALL Sports centre in Harlow is set to reopen once COVID restrictions allow.

The current lockdown roadmap allows outdoor sports and activities to continue from March 29. This means sports like football, athletics and netball are able to restart. This will allow the Norwich City Regional Devlopment Programme to host their first ever football camp in Harlow.

The easing of safety measures in the UK will enable the sports centre to welcome back local clubs including Langley Colts FC, Harlow Athletics Club and Harlow Running Club.

Mark Hall has been part of BMAT’s group of schools since January 1, after working on getting the school into its trust since autumn 2020.

Lucia Glynn, BMAT head of operations, said: “The sports centre closed down in March of last year, it did reopen at one point but has been closed since October or November. The facilities have been closed, so the community hasn’t been able to use them, the staff have been furloughed. We have about six members of staff who have been furloughed during this time. There has been a huge loss of customers, but we hope they come back.

“From March 29, we are looking forward to welcoming back our football users, our track and athletics users, as well as some activities and classes that ordinarily we’d do inside like boxercise.

“To make sure it’s COVID secure, we’ve employed a health and safety consultant to help work on our risk assessment, which makes sure the building is safe. We’ll have measures in place like directional signage, hand sanitiser, additional cleaning, social distancing and wearing masks inside. So, we will be following all of the national guidance, and also making some local arrangements to try and stop the transmission of the virus.”

Mark Hall Sports Centre is also introducing a national initiative called the GP referral programme, which is funded by the NHS for people who have health conditions, in rehabilitation or unfit.

Lucia said: “The GP will refer people for exercise, we get the money directly from the GP through the NHS. It’s a way of getting people into exercise at no cost to help those who might not be able to afford it.”

BMAT hosted a live question and answer session on March 25 on the re-opening of Mark Hall Sports Centre. It was hosted by Harlow MP Robert Halfon but mainly led by BMAT head of operations Lucia Glynn, who was able to lay out a road map of the re-opening of the sports centre.

There was also a lot of enthusiasm and energy for the future, both for the clubs that use the facility, the schools and the wider community.

As well as the GP referral programme, the Mark Hall sports centre will also host Norwich City FC’s regional development programme (RDP). The programme is an organisation that delivers children football and sports activities outside of Norfolk, which is where Norwich City FC is based.

Alex Kaufman RDP managing director,  said: “This is the very first time we have had a proper course for the community to get involved in. We love the facilities at Mark Hall Sports Centre. The astro turf, running track and the grass pitches and sports hall. Its great and the school provides a safe learning environment, where kids can come and enjoy what they do.”

“We want to provide more opportunities for the area (Harlow), we want to support the grassroots clubs, create career opportunities, progression and engagement. Also, especially with COVID we want people to have fun by getting kids to come out to socialise and make friends rather than being stuck at home.

“During the day there will be a variety of age specific fun games, technical sessions, challenges, small sided games and matches.”

Sheryl Wheatland who works at Mark Hall Sports Centre as a sports assistant said: “The pandemic has caused us to close, classes and clubs to be cancelled and staff placed on furlough.”

Sheryl also runs ‘SWEAT Harlow’ which is an aerobic and muscle toning class and she is preparing to begin her outside classes at Mark Hall sports centre from March 29. Sweat Harlow has been heavily affected by the pandemic and continued under strict guidelines previously.

Sheryl said: “SWEAT had to limit customers and give them a measured space in which to workout. Masks had to be worn, hands sanitised, everything cleaned before and after as well as changing routines to enable people to exercise safely. We exercised on Nicholls Field (in Harlow) last summer just to keep the class going.

“We then moved classes to zoom. Everyone had to book and pay online and then I sent out zoom codes. We sometimes went live on Facebook too.

“I used to have my classes at Passmores and Sir Thomas Moor and The New Life Church in Harlow. Classes are now going to be at Mark Hall as there is enough space, hard ground and cover if needed.”

PHOTO: Mark Hall Sports Centre, Harlow.

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Daniel Luker

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