A Bracknell sports hall that once housed Will Smith and operated for 20 years could now close, ruining its owner’s business and livelihood and ending all the benefits it provides to the community.
Gym owner Sid Bourne had hoped to secure the future of his gymnasium The Bodyzone until 2028 after being granted a six-year lease extension by the council’s deputy contracts manager in March 2020.
This was before his current lease expires in 2022.
However, during the pandemic, it found that the space occupied by the gym in the Bracknell Leisure Center had been transferred to its Everyone Active (EA) leisure contractors.
Now Mr Bourne is desperate to save his gym after being sent ‘back and forth’ between Bracknell Forest Council and EA.
READ MORE: Owners plead to stop 20-year-old ‘community’ gymnasium from closing
He said: “I was granted an extension in 2020 and at that time I was told that the property department was considering finalizing an extension until 2028.
“Based on this, I took out a loan of £10,000 to invest in my business and it’s on the mend.
“Then we had Covid. During this period, I was sending emails to find out what was going on, to get them to come back and tell me “the town hall is no longer your owner” and that I have to fix things with EA.
“I thought, wait a minute, that wasn’t the offer that was made to me.
“I was fired and asked the MP for Bracknell, James Sunderland, to help me.
“He said there was a so-called policy change in 2020 and I needed to speak to EA.”
However, Mr Bourne said he received conflicting reports, with cllr Peter Heydon (Conservative, Old Bracknell) saying the change in policy was not new.
Mr Bourne said he has no new deal and the deadline for his current lease is fast approaching.
He has now made a moving plea for the gymnasium to be saved.
He said: ‘We have kids coming in from school and getting work experience, we have veterans with PTSD, we have people with mental health issues and people with disabilities who all benefit from the gymnasium.
“We have a family unit. There are years and years of trust between the members.
There are two gyms in the recreation center, Bodyzone and an EA-run fitness room.
Mr Bourne said the Bodyzone gym still has its own unique offering with a mixed martial arts (MMA) floor upstairs.
He added: “If things didn’t work out my gym would have closed in the first two years because people would go to the other gym.
“I have several generations who come here, men and women, from 16 to 75 years old. They don’t feel uncomfortable, they feel relaxed, it’s a family unit.
“When Will Smith came to the sports center, EA was there and I was there, why did he come to my gym?
“He came here not once, four times when he was filming Aladdin.
“And I’ve had other names in my gym like strongman Eddie Hall and Jonah Lomu as well.”
Mr Bourne said he feared the EA would give out two-year leases and raise the rent and add VAT.
He claimed: “The more successful my gym gets, the less they will even consider giving me a new lease because they will see me as a competitor.”
READ MORE: REVEALED: How much the Everyone Active council bailout could cost taxpayers
Mr Bourne also claimed the taxpayer could be footed the £39,600 bill for the gym space he uses for the remainder of the council’s contract with Everyone Active.
With the contract expiring in 2028, that means the council could have to pay £237,600 to EA for the gym space.
Mr Bourne asked: ‘I’ve tried to be patient, but there’s a lot of stress and I want people to know what the truth is.
“I wouldn’t be in this position if the board granted the extension they gave me in 2020.”
Adding: “There are real people at the end of this. This is not acceptable and I will not let this pass.
Mr Bourne has called for the deal to stand until 2028.
He received support from newly elected Councilor Paul Bidwell (Labour, Old Bracknell), who said: “Sid and his team have been providing service to the community for over 20 years. I think the board and EA recognize that and will eventually negotiate an arrangement acceptable to all parties.
“Unfortunately time is running out which makes this time of year difficult for Sid and his team.”
A Bracknell Forest Council spokesperson said: ‘The council is aware of and is investigating a second stage complaint raised by the owner of the Bodyzone gymnasium.
“As the complaint process is still ongoing and not yet complete, we cannot comment further at this time.”
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Bracknell Forest Council has a three stage complaints process, with stage two complaints being handled by a director or senior manager of a particular department.
Once the complaint is filed, an investigation will take place and the council will aim to respond within 10 working days.
He was also asked to respond to the claim that he will have to pay EA the annual gym bill if it becomes vacant.
An EA spokesperson said: “EA does not currently hold the license to sublet this unit.
“EA is aware of ongoing discussions between Mr. Bourne and our partners, the Bracknell Forest Council.
“As such, we are unable to comment further at this time.”
In the meantime, Mr Bourne is asking for donations to help with the future of the gymnasium and its potential relocation.
You can donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/relocate-body-zone-keep-the-community-together
So far £2,010 has been raised.