FOR 36 years it has served the swimmers and fitness fanatics of Gosport.
Now the Holbrook Recreation Centre has closed its doors for good.
Gosport Borough Council closed the building on Saturday, months earlier than planned, because it says the centre is unsafe.
As reported in The News, the decision sparked a huge outcry from swimmers and staff who said there was nothing wrong with the pool.
But despite a protest march and a 3,500-strong petition to keep the pool open, staff were told they had to be out of the building by 8pm on Saturday.
Duty manager Paul Clark said: ‘We fought to keep it open and we tried our best but now it’s time to move on.
‘There’s 36 years of history here. A lot of people have come through here over the years. I have loved every minute of working here.
‘The new centre looks brilliant, but it’s a shame we have had to have this gap when we could have carried on. A lot of staff are very concerned they are going to be unemployed.’
The swimming pool was opened in 1976 and the rest of the recreation centre was built in the following years.
Swimmers mounted a last-ditch bid to halt the closure last week after Gosport’s Labour councillors forced a town hall debate on the issue.
But the ruling Tory party stood firm and said the leisure centre was unsafe and could not remain open.
Roy Wilson was a lifeguard and cleaner at the pool.
He said: ‘I have been working here since 1982 and it’s sad to see it closing.
‘It’s been very nice to see all the customers wishing us well.
‘I have really enjoyed working here.’
Gosport’s new leisure park is currently being built next to the old recreation centre.
It is expected to open later this year. After the public backlash over Holbrook’s closure, the council has negotiated with Brune Park Community College for swimmers to be able to use its pool in the meantime.
During the school summer holidays, the college’s pool will be open to the public.
And starting from today, it will also be open during term time for adult swimmers.
To find out when you can use the pool, visit gosport.gov.uk