Linda Colling: ‘You could weep’

The Crowtree Leisure Centre in 1995
The Crowtree Leisure Centre in 1995
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WHAT an eyesore. Pull it down. Crowtree Leisure Centre is dropping down. Paint peeling off its frontage, windows covered in seagull and pigeon muck, that scary, filthy walkway looked as if a pigeon or two had been massacred from the feathers strewn next to solidified piles of pigeon droppings, discarded pies and fag ends.

Then there’s the smell. It stinks of urine and bird muck. How two lasses could sit there on their hunkers smoking fags was beyond me.

Closure has been on the cards for Crowtree for years. And now the writing’s on the wall with it closing to causal users and only club and sports hall bookings accepted from October.

Forgotten, neglected and dropping to bits, like so much in this city, it’s long since held any attraction since the once popular ice rink closed in 2000 and then the swimming pool and the gym went to the wall three years ago.

It’s a white elephant, just like the Seaburn Centre which is also tipped for closure. And while work has already started in South Shields on a £15million pool, there’s no money in the coffers to put any ice rink or pool on our seafront. And that goes for Crowtree which is just being left to wrack and ruin.

More folks told me they wanted to see it refurbished rather than knocked down because of its central location.

No chance. It’s two years since Lib Dem councillor Paul Dixon launched a campaign for the swimming pool and ice rink to re-open. Someone should have told him he was wasting his time. He reckoned even if the 2003 figure was doubled, £1.5 million would be money well spent to bring both facilities back.

It will never happen. The council pushes the Aquatic Centre but no-one I spoke to liked it and preferred the Raich Carter Centre or Hetton Baths.

Gran Marilyn Leng, 64, of Hollycarrside, goes to both and despairs at the sight of Crowtree with: “It’s just a sight like the rest of the town.”

And Jean Akien of Silksworth Lane reckoned: “It’s such a mess it’s better knocked down. I think there would be too much work needed to salvage anything.”

“Tatty, dated, an absolute eyesore. It’s got nothing nice to attract people. I remember when I used to go ice skating there every Sunday and come over from South Shields,” said 32-year-old Kelly Jobson.

“A scruffy eyesore,” was how Liverpudlians, Albert and Mary Longman summed up the facade. And as one of the expert painters in his city of the Stadium of Light structure, Albert reckoned all that peeling paint was down to the wrong sealant. Whatever, he and his wife were lost for words of anything outside of The Bridges and raved about Liverpool One, their brand new shopping centre, a showpiece maritime museum at Albert Dock and the restored overhead rail link, The Docker’s Umbrella.

Liverpool was voted European Capital of Culture in 2008, and £3billion pounds worth of investment from both the private and public sector was pumped in, resulting in the rebirth of this city.

We can’t all aspire to holding that title but you could weep when you think what Sunderland once was and is now. Apart from The Bridges, it matches those mountains of pigeon muck.