STANDING outside the wide, glass doors of Easterhouse Sports Centre, Richard McShane, Kevin Pringle and Steven McLaren are delighted, finally, to have the keys to the building in their hands.

“It’s been a long road to get here,” says Richard, with feeling. “Now the work begins.”

He adds, wryly: “Easterhouse has had plenty of people parachuting in with their clipboards, telling us what we need.

“So, we’re going to listen to what the community says it needs. The three of us come from different backgrounds, we’ve got different skills and experience but we all agreed from the start - community comes first.”

Glasgow Times: Richard McShane, pictured outside Easterhouse Sports CentreRichard McShane, pictured outside Easterhouse Sports Centre (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

It was widely reported last year that basketball team Glasgow Rocks had made a late bid to take over Easterhouse Sports Centre, which has been closed since the start of the pandemic, but the bid was withdrawn when the franchise came under new ownership as Caledonia Gladiators. (The new owners are creating a custom-built arena in East Kilbride).

Richard, of The Phoenix Centre, Steven, of Easterhouse Community Sports Hub and Kevin, of Basketball Scotland, stepped in to save the popular centre from closure.

They will take on its management through the People Make Glasgow Community process, a city-wide project which aims to provide groups with facilities and support to meet needs specific to their neighbourhoods.

Glasgow Times: The new centre will have a martial arts hub.The new centre will have a martial arts hub. (Image: Steven McLaren)

The newly-formed organisation, Easterhouse Henosis - a Greek word meaning unity - has received funding for two years from the Glasgow Communities and Place Fund.

Councillor Ruairi Kelly, convener for neighbourhood services and assets at Glasgow City Council, said working to re-open the centre had been a priority of the People Make Glasgow Communities programme. 

“The community focus of Basketball Scotland and their partners is a major strength of their proposal, and with funding from Glasgow City Council, I am confident that we will now have a facility that caters directly to the needs of the people of Easterhouse and the surrounding area,” he said.

Glasgow Times: Richard, Steven and Kevin have saved the centre from closureRichard, Steven and Kevin have saved the centre from closure (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

An open day on October 14 will include sports taster sessions, activities for families and funfair rides in the car park.

“Our plan is to open initially at the weekends and from 3pm until 10pm five days a week, and extend that as we go,” says Steven. “Small steps….”

The vision, however, is big and bold, says Richard, who is well known in Easterhouse as the driving force behind the Phoenix Club, a hub of sports, music, art and learning for people of all ages.

Hundreds of people each week take part in assorted activities, including boxing, cycling, table tennis chair yoga and more.

Glasgow Times: Some of the young boxers who train at Easterhouse PhoenixSome of the young boxers who train at Easterhouse Phoenix (Image: Richard McShane)

“We want to bring in new sports - badminton, indoor tennis and pickleball, which is the fastest-rising sport in the UK,” he says. “We want to hold tea dances and major boxing events.

"We have been inundated with calls from groups keen to book lets - EIGHT dance schools got in touch."

He adds: “The closure of this centre ripped the heart out of the community. The reaction we have had shows you how much it has been missed, and how badly we need it back.

“We want to create a centre where local people can realise their potential, and get active again. But it’s not just about sport. We’ve already done a school uniform drive, to help families struggling with the cost of living, and we’re planning a school holiday food programme in the future.

“We want this to be a community hub.”

Glasgow Times: Kevin Pringle, chief executive of Basketball ScotlandKevin Pringle, chief executive of Basketball Scotland (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

Kevin Pringle is chief executive of Basketball Scotland, which has been running schools programmes in the area for three years.

“If we get this right, it could have a huge impact, not just on Easterhouse but on other areas too,” he says. “Bringing the community together, playing sport, doing other activities, has huge benefits for physical, social and mental health.”

Steven McLaren has been running martial arts classes in Easterhouse for 16 years. In the smaller gym, he plans to create a combat sports hub, providing training in karate, taekwondo, aikido and more.

Glasgow Times: Steven McLaren, who has been running martial arts classes in Easterhouse for 16 yearsSteven McLaren, who has been running martial arts classes in Easterhouse for 16 years (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

“We want to create pathways to the Commonwealth Games, the Olympics - the sky’s the limit,” he says. “It’s good for young people to feel inspired, to see those pathways exist.”

He pauses.

“It’s hard to explain, but this is not just a run of the mill job for us,” he says. “We are bringing care, and enthusiasm, to this place. We want to engage with the people who come here, and hear what they have to say about what we’re doing and how we could do it better.

“Phoenix has broken down barriers and built up relationships in this community over the years, and that’s what we plan to build on.”