Sports centre hoping to shake 'hidden gem' tag

Manager Sally McGrath in the newly decorated Lancaster Room, the main function and dining room at Th

Manager Sally McGrath in the main function and dining room at Fakenham sports centre The Gallow - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

The manager of a sports centre and bar hopes she can finally shake the venue's "hidden gem" tag before her retirement.

Sally McGrath, who runs The Gallow in Fakenham, has spent two years steadying the ship amid financial uncertainty. 

Despite occasional rumours of closure, the centre now finds itself in a far stronger position than in years gone by. 

The Gallow, Fakenham Sports Centre Association, which has been newly decorated inside. Picture: DENI

Fakenham sports centre, The Gallow - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

A gradual return to normality, helped by more groups using the facilities, support from the government and an influx of new members, has eased the pressure. 

But it remains Mrs McGrath's mission to ensure as many people as possible know about The Gallow and everything it has to offer. 

“Once we get someone here to eat, they normally come back - and that speaks volumes,” she said.

"I say 'please tell the world we are here. We have good service and that is what we can do'.

“We are still concise about costs, but need to put energy into getting new people here for sports and for hospitality.

Manager Sally McGrath and secretary, Robert Smith, in the newly decorated Lancaster Room, the main f

Secretary Robert Smith and manager Sally McGrathin the main function and dining room at The Gallow, Fakenham - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

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“If I was able to get the centre well known, I would die happy. I’m retiring next July and I would love to see it heading towards that before I leave.”

Since an £11,000 rescue fund was raised by members in 2020, the centre has revised its management plan and focused on making long-term improvements.

They include renovations to the Lancaster Room, new caterers, and a marketing team focused on getting more people through the door.

And, in a bid to boost The Gallow's fortunes, Mrs McGrath hopes to see brown signs installed across the town to point people in the direction of the Hempton Road centre.

Marleen Rogers, chair of the management committee

Marleen Rogers, chairman of the Fakenham Sports Clubs Association - Credit: Aaron McMillan

Marlene Rogers, chairman of the Fakenham Sports Clubs Association, said the manner in which money is spent on improving The Gallow has changed dramatically. 

“We are developing to make sure we show our members we are not spending money willy-nilly,” she added.

“For example, we have just doubled-glazed the new Lancaster Room which will have a cost-saving benefit and make things more comfortable for everyone who uses the centre.

“Any money spent is for the benefit of all members at the club and not just vanity projects."

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