Development of a purpose built YMCA was proposed in 1968 and was planned as a contemporary, youth-orientated, safe environment. Following a period of consultation, the finding of a suitable location and of course much funding, the building work began on land adjacent to the recently proposed Dartmouth Road.
Into the 1980s
Already the YMCA building had begun to show signs of disrepair into the 1980s and with little additional funding able to support renovations certain areas had begun to take on a rather dilapidated look.
The skatepark was given a revamp in the 1980s, with a £1000 ‘half-pipe’ added to the existing features. Skaters would travel as far as Newton Abbot, Totnes, Exeter and Brixham to use the facilities on weekends and special weekday evenings; it cost YMCA members 50p to use the park and non-members £1! The YMCA had initially planned for flood lighting so that the park could be fully lit and used more regularly throughout the year.
Building of ‘the annex’ & into the 1990s
Once referred to as ‘the annex’, the ‘waterside’, or as it is now known ‘The Education Centre’, this part of the building was started in 1995, three years ahead of schedule and was built upon land mostly used by the original skatepark; this effectively saw the end of the skateboarding era for the YMCA South Devon. The first brick was placed by YMCA’s Paignton president Beryl Maunder in November 1995 with plans for a January 1996 opening.
Costing £30,000, the building was designed as cheap dormitory accommodation which is a familiar concept within YMCAs across the world. The building consisted of ‘two dormitories sleeping 16, a large kitchen/diner, caretakers room, shower and lounge/chapel’. The idea behind the building was to ‘provide holiday accommodation where disadvantaged youngsters, who may not have been to the seaside before, can get away from the stresses and strains they have back home’.
The Skatepark was closed at the YMCA in part due to the increasing costs of maintaining and insuring the space and it was with great regret that it could not remain open for future generations. Upon closing it left Paignton without a skatepark and indeed the effect was felt much further afield than Paignton town itself. The YMCA began working with Torbay Council to try and find a solution and it was hoped that a new skatepark would be established in Paignton town centre. One was eventually installed in 1998 on disused tennis courts in Victoria Park; although this was not deemed a particularly successful venture due to the constraints of the park built at the time. The council continued to review the park, determining the needs of the young people who used the space and eventually redeveloped the land again in 2003.
The ‘Jungle Club’
The Jungle Club was registered with Torbay Council as an after school and holiday club in 1998 and was originally advertised as a club able to cater for up to 50 children up to the age of 12 years old.
What could have been!
In 1998, the YMCA South Devon held talks with town hall officials to build a £1 million ‘homes with training’ project for disadvantaged young people. The organisation felt it was ideally placed ‘to plug the gap left by the abandonment of plans to convert a derelict Torquay hotel into a base for up to 24 homeless 16 to 24 year olds’. The then manager of the YMCA, Lee Edworthy, was keen to transform the Paignton site which would involve demolition of the existing building ‘and its replacement with affordable housing and facilities for pre-vocational training, sports and recreation’.