BUILDING work has started on the long-awaited expansion of Huntingdon Gym Club.

Olympic medallist Louis Smith returned to the gym in Mayfield Road, Huntingdon, last week, as the foundations of the building, which is scheduled to open at the end of September, were laid.

The facility is being financed by a fundraising campaign, backed by The Hunts Post, which has seen money pour in from community groups, British Gymnastics, businesses and Huntingdonshire District Council, which has loaned the club £300,000.

The club also received a massive boost in February when it received almost £50,000 through a National Lottery grant from Sport England.

Since then, further financial support has come from the Huntingdon Freemen's Trust, which has awarded the gym £50,000, and the AmeyCespa Community Fund, which has awarded its maximum grant of £40,000 to fund electrical works for the new hall.

The £650,000 building, which will be installed with all modern apparatus and a cushioned floor, will allow the club to offer more classes to the community as well as the facilities to help create elite gymnasts who can compete on the world stage.

Adam Scott, one of the coaches at the club, told The Hunts Post: "We're getting really excited about the additional space.

"A lot of our competitors across the country have got a two-gym system and this will enable us to stay at the top and cater for everyone across the club."

Despite nurturing world-class athletes such as Louis, who has won medals at two Olympic Games, and World Championship silver medallist Daniel Keatings, and Luke Folwell, who won five medals at the 2010 Commonwaelth Games, the club had previously failed to secure the funds to improve its facilities.

Louis, 24, who has trained at the club since he was five, said: "It's great to see the new gym finally taking shape.

"I've trained here for more than 15 years in a very cramped and busy environment and I know just how difficult it has been to manage the increase in numbers and still try to produce some of the world's greatest gymnasts."

The fundraising campaign continues as the club needs to pay back HDC, which loaned the club money in order to meet a strict time limit for securing a £200,000 grant from British Gymnastics.

Coach Ben Howells and a team of gymnasts and parents are running in the Huntingdon 10k for Huntingdon Gymnastics Club on June 16. You can sponsor them at www.justgiving.com/hgc