Home   Gravesend   News   Article

For 37 years it’s been my life, says centre manager

People have been sharing their memories of a popular leisure centre which closed suddenly leaving customers devastated and 19 people unemployed.

Kevin Pidwell with some of the team who lost their jobs.
Kevin Pidwell with some of the team who lost their jobs.

Fleet Leisure and Sports Club, in Nelson Road, Gravesend, closed on Monday, September 2.

Fleet Leisure Ltd, which was leasing the site from owners Gravesham council, went into administration in April. The business continued to trade while it was up for sale, though plans by Ebbsfleet United Football Club to buy it fell through in July.

The council has vowed to reopen the ground as soon as it can.

Kevin Pidwell, 57, has worked at Fleet Leisure for 37 years and said that shutting it down had both staff and customers in tears.

He said: “It felt like the bottom fell out of my world when they said it was closing because this place has been my life. It still hasn’t sunk in 100%.”

The centre originally had a staff of 21, with five full time members and 16 part time. Mr Pidwell was food and beverage manager and is one of only two people who still work there.

He is a steward now, keeping an eye on the site.

Fleet Leisure, Nelson Road, Northfleet.
Fleet Leisure, Nelson Road, Northfleet.

People of all ages enjoyed numerous sports there and social events such as fireworks nights and charity fundraisers were well attended by local people.

Mr Pidwell said: “We had people who felt safe to come up here, like women who could come on their own and have a chat with somebody at the bar because we knew them.

"They couldn’t do that anywhere else and that’s who I feel sorry for.”

The function room and bar were a large source of income for the ground with facilities hired for weddings, birthday parties, wakes and other social events.

Mr Pidwell said he had to ring and cancel at least two wedding receptions because of the closure. Two retirement groups have also been forced to move to new venues.

He said: “For 37 years this place has been my life. We got engaged and we had our wedding here.

"The thing I always like to think of is that of all the time I’ve been working here you could count on your hands all the complaints we’ve had and there’s not many places that can say that.

“I thought the only time I’d leave here is when I retire.”

The site has been a sports venue for 81 years.

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More