Norman Garon Trust  vision is to make Garon Park

the best multi-sport centre in the country 

by Philip Tolhurst, Trustee, Norman Garon Trust 

When Garon Park was first conceived at the meeting with the then Leader of Southend Borough Council we saw it as a sports complex that would provide a number of first class facilities particularly for young people. 

Fifteen years on and with various improvements over the years we have developed that vision and now see Garon Park not simply as a regional centre of excellence but an exemplary joint venture between private, public and sporting sectors to produce a truly comprehensive multi-sport facility. 

We already have one of the best indoor tennis centres in the Country; which draws a lot of young people into that sport.  We already have indoor basketball, netball and similar training facilities and an international standard athletics track. 

Essex County Cricket Club has now taken a Lease on the Cricket Ground at Garon Park and this year depending upon timing of relevant consents, we hope to establish not only first class outdoor nets but a first class electronic cricket scoreboard together with workshop and storage facilities for the ground-staff. Weather permitting we also hope to remodel the mounding around the oval to provide a mezzanine level, which for the festival will accommodate the marquees and similar, but for a Twenty20 match could provide an additional raised platform for seating.  Space will be left for grandstands to be built both temporarily and more permanently in the future.

The clubhouse will also have a makeover this year and while doing that the club will also be looking to create a separated area for the players. 

Looking forward we have a visionary plan to establish indoor centres of excellence both for cricket and football and working with an organisation supported by leading ex-footballers we hope to provide a sensational facility for them and will combine of the indoor training facilities for use by both cricket and football as well, as well as providing an indoor cricket school.   We have recently made planning applications for all these facilities. 

Outside of the main sporting facilities we are in negotiations with a hotel operator to create a 4* hotel on site and this will necessitate the rebuilding of certain of the other facilities that exist and the area to the right of the access road. 

Southend Borough Council now has planning permission for a new 25-metre pool with a world-class pool and diving facility and they are hoping to complete the construction of that, alongside the tennis centre, in 2010.

On the golf course we are in discussion with the operators with a view to carrying out a number of improvements, and with that we hope to include some fairway watering. 

The tree planting we undertook on the golf course is now well established and will be increasingly visible and contributes to a substantial improvement in the overall environment over the previous uses of the land, not just in the trees and vegetation but also in the wildlife and fauna, which has been created within the golf course area.

Finally, we are discussions with the University of Essex, and together we will be discussing with Southend Borough Council access to all of the facilities both here and elsewhere for students at the University campus in Southend.   This new campus opened at the beginning of 2007 and the numbers of students will increase substantially next September and in the following years thereafter.   Their use of all these facilities will ably demonstrate that our vision is being achieved, and that, when all these works are complete we have created the best sporting centre, not only regionally but also possibly in the Country for all the leading sports except perhaps for sailing but then we do have the sea at Southend as well!