The council decided to go ahead with the new facility to offset dwindling demand for squash and to bring in hundreds more customers to reduce the £70,000 annual deficit at the outdoor centre.Members of St Ivo Racquets Club, and supporters raised 158 names for a petition against the closure which they presented to councillors at a meeting last month. John Dewis, club chairman, said: "It is £450,000 of public money being spent on a massive gamble." He claimed the council had failed to maintain the courts properly and had not promoted squash which had driven away players, saying that a £20,000 investment in the courts would be a better long-term investment. Cllr John Palmer, who is responsible for partnerships and wellbeing, said: "The decision to repurpose the squash courts was not an easy one." Cllr Palmer said: "However, the district council is committed to the most effective use of its assets. We believe that the proposed new facility is an up to date response to the fitness demand across the district." The council said in a statement that there had been heavy capital investment in its other leisure centres and there was a "pressing need" to invest in the outdoor centre. The council said the Training Shed, which specialised in functional training, nutrition and injury rehabilitation, was a unique facility in Huntingdonshire. It said figures showed a significant decline nationally in squash participation, with a steady fall locally since 2011. At St Neots only 34 per cent of courts were booked, with 23 per cent at Huntingdon and 20 per cent at St Ives, although St Ives has four courts and the other two towns two each. The council said 324 squash users would be displaced and it hoped the new facility would bring in more than 900 new users. Mr Dewis said: "We just want to keep squash in St Ives. The whole process has not been clear or transparent. It is like we are being starved out." He said the St Ives courts were scheduled to shut on July 21 and that the club would be discussing its future this week.