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First look inside the Folkestone Urban Sports Park on Tontine Street

By Molly Mileham-Chappell

New pictures have revealed how building work at a new 'world first' sports centre is coming along.

The innovative complex, titled F51, will include skating facilities, a boxing gym, function room and café, in Folkestone when complete.

Despite a series of delays, the indoor urban sports park - currently being built on the corner of Tontine Street and Dover Road - is said to be the first of its kind in the world.

WATCH: Behind the scenes of Folkestone's new skate park

Now hoped to open early next year, the multi-storey building includes a 15 metre climbing wall, as well as a suspended concrete skate bowl on the first floor replace a park on the seafront.

Dan Hulme, trustee of Shepway Sports Trust, which will ultimately manage the site, said: "We're in the final straight.

"We've had a couple of delays, but we're now through those and it's nearly to the top, and we just have to fill in the gaps now."

The bottom floor will contain the entrance hall, offices, a cafe and multi-purpose rooms.

Work continues at the skate park. Picture: Paul Amos
Work continues at the skate park. Picture: Paul Amos
Trustee Dan Hulme looks over one of the bowls. Picture: Paul Amos
Trustee Dan Hulme looks over one of the bowls. Picture: Paul Amos

The first floor contains the suspended bowl, while the second floor will be a 'street skating' floor.

The top floor will be a 'flow floor', which Mr Hulme describes as a lunar landscape: "It's slightly more easy riding and should be where you'll learn."

Issues with the most recent delay came from the cladding.

Mr Hulme explained: "Originally we hoped to have a perforated skin. it went through testing, and although it was good it wasn't quite right for the building."

Underside of one of the competition bowls. Picture: Paul Amos
Underside of one of the competition bowls. Picture: Paul Amos
The skate park is taking shape - pictured is the top floor. Picture: Paul Amos
The skate park is taking shape - pictured is the top floor. Picture: Paul Amos

Now, a new cladding has been designed and will go into manufacture soon.

It is being funded and developed by the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust as part of a wave of regeneration plans for the town.

It has also received celebrity endorsements from American rapper MC Hammer and pro-skater Bam Margera.

But it has faced many snags since it was first proposed in 2015 due to its ambitious design and escalating costs.

Nigel Griffiths, site manager for Jenners for the Urban Sports Park, said: "Where everything is bespoke, everything has been designed specifically for this job, whereas a normal job you would have all the cladding ready.

"But because of the shape and complexity of it, it's a little bit more involved than usual."

Project Officer Alex Frost tries out one of the bowls, watched by Trustee Dan Hulme. Picture: Paul Amos. (12778203)
Project Officer Alex Frost tries out one of the bowls, watched by Trustee Dan Hulme. Picture: Paul Amos. (12778203)

He said the gravity defying suspending bowl was actually easier to install than they expected: "The bowls went a lot smoother than we thought. The structure and form wasn't as awkward as we thought it would be."

A concrete topping will be added to the bowls to finish them off.

He added that the upper levels are designed to be future proof: "The top two floors can be changed to any sort of shape or configuration they want in the future - if people get bored for example."

Mr Hulme is impressed by the sculpture and hopes it will stop anti-social connotations with the sport, which is now included in the Olympics: "You're stacking three skate parks on top of each other.

The site should be open next year. Picture: Paul Amos
The site should be open next year. Picture: Paul Amos

"We're putting the skate park right into the centre of town. It's putting sport and skateboarding into the community.

"It's bringing it more into the mainstream."

It's hoped local children will be able to access the site for £1 a month.

Mr Hulme added: "It's really exciting. I really learnt what 'wood for the trees' meant through this project. We're just desperate now to get it over the line and open."

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone.

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