The Surrey Gymnastics Society is hoping the city will be able to help them in their search for a new home.
Surrey Gymnastics Society is looking for a 15,000-sq.-ft. facility that they would be able to move into by summer next year. The society needs to be out of the space by June 30, 2020.
Currently, the society runs out of a school district building on Frank Hurt Secondary’s property.
“In order to preserve our men’s artistic program, we need a ceiling height of a minimum 22 feet. Anything shorter than that and we cannot continue our men’s program,” said Costas Piliotis, the society’s treasurer.
“Our ideal facility would be something like… what Delta, Langley or Phoenix gymnastics has, which allows for a double-sprung floor. They have 15,000-sq.-ft. — all three of them — and they allow for a double-sprung floor which allows for them to run more programs and increase their reach in the community.”
The society, according to its website, has a membership of 600 recreational and competitive gymnasts.
Piliotis will be speaking to the city’s Parks, Recreation and Culture committee on May 22, with the hope that the city will have a property the society can use.
He said while the SGS has gone to present to the committee multiple times before, he said he’s more hopeful this time since with the shuffling of the committee, there will be multiple councillors in attendance to hear the presentation.
He said he still needs to meet with the society’s board, but he hopes to tell the committee that with the need to leave the school district facility, Surrey will be “one of the few cities in the region that are no longer going to have a gymnastics society in a public space.”
“It is quite normal to have sports operating in public spaces such as hockey and soccer and lacrosse.”
Piliotis said that without city buy-in, the community is going to be at a “great loss.”
“It’s kind of our last chance.”
Jocelyn Chua, the society’s CEO, said SGS is hoping the city has an existing facility the society could move into for the time being, with a city-owned property SGS could eventually build a new facility on.
“There are a lot of options it’s just a matter of if the city would be able to provide us some support.”
Asked if SGS would be willing to move out of Newton, Piliotis said that while space is more affordable in South Surrey, he doesn’t think the society’s membership would be willing to move.
“There’s nothing servicing between Langley gymnastics and Delta gymnastics, there’s two private clubs and south surrey already has a non-profit. We want to take care of Newton because we have proven the market is there for the sport in Newton.”
Surrey Gymnastics Society has been in a purpose-built building on Frank Hurt Secondary’s property since 1983, and has been used at no cost by the society for almost 40 years.
Marilyn Laughlin, one of the original founders of SGS, said the society was formed by three clubs: Dr. Sinclair, Athena and North Star boys.
She said many people realized back then that there was the need for a proper gym in Surrey “because we were doing our gymnastics in the school gyms and every time there was a game or a tea or something, we couldn’t do it there.”
Laughlin said the society held a meeting with several schools in attendance, but Frank Hurt “sort of stacked the meeting, and they got it.”
The society, she said, raised the funds to match the grant and began constructing the building.
“We did displays everywhere… to get the name out there — Surrey Gymnastics Society — to make it known to people to realize that we now existed and we were going to put this building up,” Laughlin said. “You might say in a way, this is the building bingo built because we all had to do bingo for years to raise the money.”
The society then sold the building to the Surrey School District for $1, as a way for SGS to use the building at no cost with the district allowed to use the facility during the day. Laughlin said this agreement allowed the society to keep the fees low.
“It was a win-win situation back then.”
Then in 2013, said Surrey Schools spokesperson Doug Strachan, the society signed a one-year lease, and following that SGS would vacate and give up possession of the facility for a potentional addition to Frank Hurt Secondary in the current location of the gymnastics facility.
“There’s a combination of things. The building needs some serious investment to keep it for maintenance, just for upgrades, but we’re not planning to invest or at least keep that minimal because we expect to be having to take it down to build the addition,” Strachan said.
However, Strachan said, Surrey Gymnastics Society was allowed to continue until now.
Piliotis said the society has been on a month-to-month agreement with the district since then.
At the beginning of 2019, Strachan said the district gave SGS a year’s notice to vacate by Dec. 31, 2019. The deadline was then pushed back to June 30, 2020 with SGS paying rent for the final year from July 1, 2019 until June 30, 2020.
“Their rent will be at a 40 per cent discount thereabouts, to what ou regular rent would be as well,” Strachan said.
SGS CEO Jocelyn Chua said the district is charging the society a low lease of $1,500 a month for the final year.
And now the search is on for a new facility, but it isn’t easy, said Piliotis.
“We are looking at a minimum of $180,000 to $200,000 a year and very few buildings are even willing to entertain a gymnastics club,” said Piliotis, adding that the parking, traffic and tear down and set up of equipment discourages some people from leasing to a gymnastics society.
“A friend of mine, for example, had a gym where they had to sweep it up and clean it every night after they tore (the equipment) down.”
With the added cost of the lease, Piliotis said the society would have to increase fees.
“We would have to bring our rates up to be at the same rates the other for-profit clubs are at, so we’re looking right now at our competitive team — which is about 70 kids — 30-per-cent increases in fees. That’s sizable. Our recreational programs will probably jump about five to 10 per cent next year as well.”
Piliotis said that since the society had been using the Frank Hurt facility rent free, it would be able to help out potential athletes who couldn’t always afford the sport.
“When an athlete shows some potential, we let them pay what they can because we don’t want money to impact a child’s, or a young adult’s, ability to do this sport