THE new owners of a water sports centre hope to put a ‘little bit of magic’ back into the place.
The Andrew Simpson Foundation has taken over the running of the Portsmouth Water Sports Centre, off Eastern Road, and held an official opening yesterday.
To come together and give this place a little bit of Bart magic is something that will really help.Iain Percy
Re-named in memory of Olympic gold medallist Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson, who died while training for the America’s Cup in 2013, the centre will look to boost on-the-water opportunities for children in the city.
Bart’s close friends and teammates Iain Percy and Sir Ben Ainslie were at the opening along with councillors, students from the University of Portsmouth and people from the sailing industry.
Iain, a double Olympic champion and trustee of the Andrew Simpson Foundation, said: ‘It is really amazing for the foundation to have taken over this centre.
‘Me and Andrew used to live on Hayling Island when we were training for the 2000 Olympics so we know this body of water really well.
‘To come together and give this place a little bit of Bart magic is something that will really help. It will provide a great opportunity for children from all different starts in life get on the water.’
The Andrew Simpson Water Sports Centre had previously been run by another operator but it was decided a provider experienced in on-the-water activities was needed.
The foundation was happy to step in and Councillor Linda Symes, the cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport at Portsmouth City Council, said she was pleased with the move.
‘Having the foundation take over this centre is fantastic,’ she said.
‘We have always wanted a lot of our sports facilities to be run by charities because the money goes back into them.
‘The charity is very proactive in getting children from all areas and walks of life on to the water.
‘I have visited their other centres and it is great to see so many children having fun, that is what we are hoping to create here.’
Richard Percy, Iain’s brother and chief executive of the foundation, added: ‘This centre will offer activities and courses for people of all ages and abilities.
‘It will be for those just wanting to have fun to others who want to go on and become Olympic winners.
‘Seeing the foundation grow here in Portsmouth is amazing.’