Huntingdon Olympic Gymnastics Club is set for a new £3.5million state-of-the-art extension to help train athletes in the build-up to the 2012 Olympic Games. Now the club are searching for sponsors and donations to help raise the cash – and release the £50

STAR PERFORMERS: Gymnasts at the Huntingdon Olympic Gym performing at the fund-raising launch. Pictures: HUNTS POST

Huntingdon Olympic Gymnastics Club is set for a new £3.5million state-of-the-art extension to help train athletes in the build-up to the 2012 Olympic Games.

Now the club are searching for sponsors and donations to help raise the cash - and release the £500,000 which has been already been pledged by Sport England if other funding can be secured.

If it can raise the cash, the gym will play a major part in Britain's preparations for the 2012 London games.

The club hopes to raise the money needed to complete the work through lottery and grant applications and support from local backers.

STAR PERFORMERS: Gymnasts at the Huntingdon Olympic Gym performing at the fund-raising launch. Pictures: HUNTS POST

The club has trained four members who competed at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in March including 17-year-old Louis Smith, Commonwealth and European Junior champion on the pommel horse.

But, currently, elite athletes have to fight for space and time at the gym alongside ordinary members of the public.

Businesses and individuals are now being approached to help secure a lasting legacy at the gym for years to come.

At the launch of the a fund-raising campaign on Thursday, the Mayor of Huntingdon, Councillor Jeff Dutton, said: "This gym is one of the jewels of Huntingdon's crown and it is tremendously exciting to see such fantastic plans.

STAR PERFORMERS: Gymnasts at the Huntingdon Olympic Gym performing at the fund-raising launch. Pictures: HUNTS POST

"There are so many fantastic kids already here and there's a queue out the door. This development will help put the gym back at the centre of the community."

Head coach Paul Hall said: "At the moment, we have a situation where elite athletes can be training at one end of the gym and children aged four or five at the other. It's not an ideal scenario."

The plan is for the existing sports hall to be revamped to house the more casual users while the new gym would be used for the elite gymnasts.

Hall said: "We have some fantastic talent at the gym and when 2012 comes around, any of our gymnasts from the age of 12 upwards could be involved and they desperately need the new facilities."

The plans make provision for an extra 98 parking spaces, between 60 and 70 of which will be for occasional use only and planted with grass. The primary access to the facility will be switched from Claytons Way to Mayfield Road.

The new hall would also be environmentally friendly and have a grass roof which will absorb rainwater, which will be collected and used for the lavatories.

The club currently has more than 400 members ranging in age from just two, up to 50 years old, but hundreds more people are on the waiting list for membership.

Hall said: "We just cannot accommodate all the people who want to use the gym.

"People travel from as far afield as Milton Keynes and Peterborough to use our facilities which gives an indication of how popular we are.

"Everyone has been very supportive, from local residents to the town council, and we hope we can raise the money we need and we can get on with building a fantastic facility for Huntingdon to be proud of."

Claytons Way resident Elsie Berwick, 87, who has a pathway near the gym named after her and visits nearly every day, said: "The gym is a wonderful place and even though there might be a bit more traffic, it'll be worth it to give even more people the chance to use the gym."

n Interview with Louis Smith and more details of the proposals, Page 54.