FORCED to close last month due to social distancing restrictions, a Wonthaggi boxing gym faces an uncertain future, with its founder and head trainer worried it may not be able to reopen after the worst of the COVID-19 crisis is over.
Scott Williamson and his fighters at Bass Coast Boxing and Fitness have been left without a home after vacating their training premises, which they were renting, to make way for a $22 million Bunnings Warehouse retail outlet.
The club closed its doors to the public for the final time on March 14, and has since been struggling to find a new base from which to relaunch, with Scott unable to cover rental costs for a space in town big enough to accommodate a competition-size ring.
If they don’t get some help soon, Scott says, they may have to permanently shut up shop in Wonthaggi, a decision that would devastate his 40 or so members.
“My boys will tell you, they will not train at any other club. We’re a family,” he said.
“We’d love to stay in Wonthaggi, but if we don’t open some doors in the next couple of weeks, we’ll have to look at other options.”
As to where that help might come from, Scott’s called on Bass Coast Shire Council to assist in finding a suitable premises in Wonthaggi.
He said Mayor Cr Brett Tessari had voiced support for the club in the past, and he was hopeful this might translate into action.
“Small businesses are the ones that are going to break in this crisis, so a little bit of help would be good,” he said.
“We’re happy to pay rent, it’s just a bit dear in Wonthaggi.
“But the more places in town that give kids an outlet, and just somewhere to go and someone to talk to, the better. I’ve got 12-year-old kids that treat the club like their second home.”
When contacted for comment last week, Mayor Tessari said it would “certainly be a shame” to see Bass Coast Boxing leave Wonthaggi, but that he was not able to offer special assistance to the privately-owned commercial business.
He acknowledged that many businesses were struggling due to the impacts of COVID-19 and encouraged those in Bass Coast to get in touch with Council’s Economic Development team to access relevant supports.
“Every business is important to the whole of the shire and a lot of them are doing it tough at the moment,” Cr Tessari said.
“There’s lots they can do and look into – Council’s putting $700,000 into business and community grants, on top of the state and federal government support.
“They should speak to their accountants and be all over what’s available to them.”
Corner Inlet club staying put
Over in Leongatha, the not-for-profit Corner Inlet Boxing Club is also under stress, with $275 a week in rent to pay and no money coming in since closing indefinitely on March 23.
Coach Scott Bindloss said the club was “travelling along for now,” running off the money generated from its big annual boxing showcase at Leongatha’s Memorial Hall, but that they would need to get back to business soon as these funds were fast drying up.
“We’ve been negotiating with our landlord who’s been very supportive and understanding, but as a not-for-profit, it is going to be difficult moving forward with no money coming in,” he said.
They’re planning on staying put at their home of five years for now, Scott said, quashing rumours that they may be forced to relocate to a smaller facility at Foster.
“We won’t be moving out or back to Foster yet as we are communicating well with the landlord and hope to resolve any problems as they arise,” he said.
“But money is money and I understand that a fair resolution needs to be made for all parties in these challenging circumstances.
“We’ve never missed a beat with rent and we hope to be able to continue like that when this is all over.”