It has been a long time coming but finally, at long last, St Tydfils Gymnastics in Merthyr Tydfil have a new home!
The club, which also turns 50 this year, are leaving their current base at Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Centre for their own brand new gymnastics facility, having been granted Change of Use on a building on the Cyfarthfa Industrial Estate thanks to support from Merthyr Tydfil CBC.
Classes are due to start running as soon as the new facility opens on 1st February.
St Tydfils, one of the oldest community sports clubs in Merthyr Tydfil, is where women’s artistic gymnast Latalia Bevan first started and which set her on a road that would eventually lead to a silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
They have operated out of the current leisure centre and its Rhydycar predecessor since it was established in 1972. It has been a tough couple of years in particular for the club, who have been unable to access the main hall at the leisure centre since the pandemic struck in March 2020, due to lockdown and then the main hall since being used as one of the main Cwm Taf vaccination centres.
Meanwhile a separate multi-purpose room the club also uses at the leisure centre is only able to accommodate a little over 20 gymnasts at any one time and, having lost two thirds of their space, it left them desperately needing a new home to help accommodate a membership that hit 600 at its peak, pre-Covid.
St Tydfils partnered with multi award-winning Valleys Gymnastics Academy in 2017 to help strengthen and modernise the club and have operated under the VGA umbrella since then.
VGA managing director Melissa Anderson said: “It’s the right thing for St Tydfils to enable us to develop and thrive; we are just so happy.
“It was always our intention to get a unit and, although I guess Covid delayed us sightly, it also pushed us into action a little bit.
“The club has got a long history and actually the way that gymnastics has developed across Wales, it’s only right that St Tydfils has its own home, because of its status in the community.
“The demand is there in Merthyr for gymnastics.
“We’ve kids that come now and their parents have done gymnastics at St Tydfils, their grandparents have done gymnastics at St Tydfils, so gymnastics and St Tydfils is part of the Merthyr history of culture I would say.”
St Tydfils’ new facility will consist of two separate gyms, with a doorway in-between, totalling around 10,000 square feet.
“First and foremost, we’re going to be able to accommodate more children; get them more physically active and engaged in structured, meaningful activity,” continued Melissa.
“Our aim really is to make it a hub of the community for everybody to come and do some gymnastics.
“It’s going to be split so we’ve got one dedicated Gymnastics for All recreational side and then we’re going to have a more competitive squad gymnastics side for our artistic and our TeamGym.
“We want to have a colourful, buzzing, fun gymnastics space in which the primary focus is going to be about gymnastics for all and being fully inclusive; putting some new disability sessions in, lots of new pre-school sessions.”
The move will enable the club to expand their offer to the Merthyr community, as Melissa explained further: “It’s also going to enable us to develop our other offers such as recreational rhythmic gymnastics, freestyle gymnastics, increase our pre-school offer, allow us to deliver disability and SEN dedicated gymnastics sessions – that we’ve not been able to deliver because of a lack of time in the leisure centre.
“And that’s the most exciting thing, that we’re going to be able to provide a menu of different opportunities and a broader selection of activities; birthday parties, fun sessions which, if you’re in your own facility, you can offer.
“We also want to attract schools into the facility. We massively value gymnastics as a foundation sport, we want as many children as possible to give it a go.
“If they do it for two or three years to develop their fundamental movement skills; their coordination, their strength, their flexibility and move on to another sport then that’s that job done. We recognise that we play that role, not everybody is going to stay, but I think it’s going to give that accessible opportunity to lots more people within the town of Merthyr Tydfil.
“They shouldn’t have to travel elsewhere – and some people can’t travel elsewhere to access those opportunities – so we’re just really excited to be able to provide all of that on their doorstep, so kids can take advantage of it.”
For more information, visit www.valleysgymnasticsacademy.co.uk or call 01495 248070.