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COLIN CAMPBELL: Worst start to new year as Everlast is axed

By Colin Campbell

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Picture: Callum Mackay..
Picture: Callum Mackay..

After the excesses of the holiday season, January is the all-action month which traditionally sees many people join in an upsurge in the membership of local gyms.

They may stick at a new exercise regime or they may fall by the wayside, but the intent and the opportunity is there.

So this is a particularly cruel time for many people in and around the Culloden area as a hugely popular leisure venue which has combined the roles of their fitness centre and social gathering place is axed.

Their battle to retain the Everlast gym and swimming pool at the Inverness Shopping Park - fought with vigour and a sense of deep injustice - has been lost. The venue, which has more than 2,000 members, is being replaced by a bowling venue.

A gym and a swimming pool beloved by its members versus a have-a-go skittles and bowls sideshow? In terms of health, wellbeing and value to the community, there's no comparison.

The Courier has documented how much Everlast has meant to its members. If this utterly dismal turn of events had befallen the Inverness leisure centre I and other members would be devastated.

On the west side of the river, that scenario is unthinkable, but for people in the Culloden area and beyond, it’s now the stark reality.

Picture: Callum Mackay..
Picture: Callum Mackay..

Highland councillors met and decided they had no grounds to oppose the change of use of the facility. Everlast protesters gathered outside their Glenurquhart Road HQ to lobby them and to appeal for last-ditch support.

What was striking about those swathed against the cold was the number who were elderly, the same kind of folk who go in large numbers to Inverness Leisure during the day and gain immeasurable benefit from doing so.

For older Everlast members their gym and swimming pool was not only a crucial supplement to their fitness and health, it was a social centre where during the day they could relax and chat.

What will they do during these long winter days now?

There are other leisure venues they could go to but that depends on transport arrangements which may be out of their reach. And even if they do go elsewhere the bonds of friendship they forged over many years will have been irretrievably broken.

For some councillors this may just have been another item on an agenda. But I'd wager the wide-ranging fallout from the Everlast closure dwarfed anything else that came before them that day.

People will suffer health and mental wellbeing consequences as a result of it. It comes at the worst possible time of year, and is an absolute disaster for a large number of people across a wide swathe of Inverness.

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