Published: 06:00, 08 July 2020
| Updated: 13:39, 08 July 2020
A cage fighter from Thanet is on a mission to breathe new life into the seafront with his plans for a huge community sports hub.
Mixed martial arts athlete Cameron Else, from Margate, has unveiled his concept for Project Combat in Westbrook, which would serve as a base to provide the people of Thanet with martial arts classes, yoga spaces, watersports, and even a nutritional restaurant.
The 30-year-old is hoping to repurpose the Westbrook Loggia, which sits along Westbrook Royal Esplanade.
The building is mostly empty, but a section of it is currently occupied by Thanet Lifeguard Club.
Mr Else grew up in the area, and said he is determined to offer positive opportunities to young people.
He said: "I've always had a vision that I would bring something like this to my hometown and change the way people think about Thanet - stop the divide and give people hope for a better future.
"We're going to be the only full-time mixed martial arts sports centre in Kent, and I'll be doing full-time scholarships for kids of all backgrounds for free training, free equipment and free competitions."
Thanet District Council's (TDC) Cabinet has voted in principle to add the premises to the Assets Disposal List.
According to Mr Else TDC has not yet made a decision on what do with the building, but one option available could include auctioning it off.
Mr Else hopes he can convince the council to grant him a 30-year lease to cement his vision of a long-term seaside sports and leisure facility.
The MMA pro and his team are currently hard at work trying to secure a £1m funding deal to be able to refurbish the building, subject to convincing TDC to hand over the lease.
He said: "This is a passion of mine, and I just believe that no matter who steps up to challenge us to come in and say they want it, they're not going to beat what I've proposed because of the passion and the message I'm choosing to deliver."
Mr Else also wants the development of the building to be delivered exclusively by local companies to support as many local trades as possible.
He said: "I will not be sourcing people from London and places like that, because for me it's important that everybody reaps the benefits of this.
"We can help local businesses that need money and getting their name out more, so we'll be taking these businesses on so they feel more committed to the project and know that they're a part of something great."
The provisional plans include a mixed martial arts centre, a yoga space, and a restaurant called Mr Sport Nutrition Kitchen.
A council spokesman said: "Following a meeting in December 2019, Thanet District Council’s Cabinet voted in principle to add Westbrook Loggia to the Assets Disposal List.
"This was part of a strategy to reduce costs, generate income and improve other assets across the district. A Community Asset Transfer was not discussed.
"Whilst there is Cabinet approval for a sale or long lease within two years of that decision, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the council is reviewing its assets in the form of land and buildings.
"This is to see how they can best support the district's recovery and regeneration by providing long term revenue, thereby protecting council services and improving facilities for residents and visitors.
"We have spoken to the interested party and advised that they can add their name to an Expression of Interest list whilst the review is taking place."
Mr Else started his career in the paratroopers before getting injured.
He has since become a renowned mixed martial arts athlete, and according to MMA website tapology.com is ranked 18th out of 231 active featherweight fighters in the UK and Ireland.
Not content with just focusing on his career and potential Westbrook venture, Mr Else is also starting a mental health charity called Fight the Demon, which would have its headquarters based at the converted Westbrook Loggia.
The athlete described his charity's approach to mental health as a "global breakthrough."
More by this authorOliver Kemp
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