THE previous government’s plans for Fort Regent relied too heavily on a casino to make the centre sustainable and were rightly dropped, an assistant minister with responsibility for sport has said.
Earlier this week it was revealed that proposals to transform the leisure centre had been axed after ministers deemed them ‘unfeasible in the current economic climate’.
The plans, which were to take shape over the course of a ten-year redevelopment, featured proposals for a multi-purpose venue for conferences, sporting events and concerts, alongside a hotel, cinema, ten-pin-bowling alley and casino.
Responding to the decision, Deputy Lucy Stephenson said she had concerns over the need for a casino to make the Fort profitable, and vowed to work to bring sport back to the centre in the future.
‘I welcome the decision of ministers to move away from previous plans for Fort Regent and believe it presents a fresh opportunity for us to get sport back on the agenda for discussions about the facility’s future,’ she said.
‘The plans as presented by the previous government are unaffordable in the current economic climate and relied heavily on a casino for future sustainability.
‘I do not believe there is current political or public appetite to open a casino in Jersey, especially given that such a facility would need to rely on local trade to make it profitable.
‘However good a redevelopment of Fort Regent would be for the Island, I would not personally want to see it reliant on the people of Jersey needing to spend their hard earned cash in a casino,’ the Deputy added.
The politician, who represents the St Mary, St Ouen and St Peter district, said she believed that ministers were committed to finding a ‘realistic, affordable and sustainable’ future for the Fort.
She said that although she believed sport should play a part in the Fort’s future, all existing sports staff would leave the centre when the new Springfield gym opens later this year.
‘During my engagement with sports and other stakeholders in recent months it’s been made clear that there remains a lot of interest in Fort Regent retaining some kind of sport provision in the future,’ said Deputy Stephenson.
‘There’s also a shortage of certain types of facilities and flexible space, especially in a central location which can be easily accessed. We also need play facilities for our children in and around St Helier, including an indoor soft play.
‘For these reasons I will work to champion Fort Regent as a future community facility and encourage ministers to consider getting sport back into the Fort in some way.
‘However, we’ve got to be realistic. The Fort as it currently stands is not fit for purpose.
‘And once the Active gym at Springfield opens and the Fort one closes, sport facilities staff will also move to Springfield. It is not sustainable under the current model to staff the two sites long-term.’