Folkestone Sports Centre: an unsung sports hero


Folkestone Sports Centre Trust is a social enterprise leisure centre whose main goal is to make sport and leisure activities accessible to people who might otherwise struggle to access them for financial or social reasons.

Tessa Stickler, general manager of Folkestone Sports Centre Trust (FSCT), explains how a social enterprise leisure centre is invigorating the community:

When the doors to the centre were officially opened over 40 years ago, I don’t think anyone could have imagined the impact it would have on the community. The main goal was to make sport and leisure activities accessible to people who might otherwise struggle to access them for financial or social reasons. Since then, the centre has been used by several generations of the same families and become an integral part of their lives.

Over time, the centre has evolved to keep up with the changing needs of the community, who we often consult with. Being the only multi-sports facility in the district of Shepway, it’s important for us to be able to adapt to those needs.

When we needed to bring the centre up to date Charity Bank saw our potential and gave its full support. Without it, the first phase of a major regeneration of this tired, 45-year old building would not have gone ahead and it would have most likely ended with closure. As we are a non-profit making organisation, reinvesting any small surplus we make, commercial lenders weren’t prepared to step in.

The Charity bank loan also enabled us to attract further funding, which meant we could pay for the next phase of the programme. As a result, in addition to increasing our services available for the community - in particular those with learning and physical disabilities - we now host local, national and international sports events.

FSCT recently won an award for its work with disability groups, with many more now using the centre’s facilities including injured soldiers and their families from the local military community. We’re now looking forward to serving the next generation – and beyond!

"Over time, the centre has evolved to keep up with the changing needs of the community."

- Tessa Stickler, general manager, Folkestone Sports Centre Trust

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Tessa Stickler, general manager, Folkestone Sports Centre Trust

Carolyn Sims, Charity Bank's head of banking, explains how FSCT unlocked funding for community sport activities:

"The centre is a lifeline to the community and to allow it to close would have been a terrible let-down. It had potential for social impact and financial sustainability so I could see how Charity Bank could support the sports centre with a loan.

FSCT put together a good business plan. Its ability to generate a surplus helped it to secure our loan and good planning made sure the nuts and bolts were in place as it used the loan to regenerate the centre.

Since our first loan to FSCT it has expanded its range of services and continued to evolve to meet community needs. Just as its initial planning was key at the outset, its forward-thinking has been crucial to sustaining and growing its social impact."