Leader: ‘Cash invested in sport keeps us happier’

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The closures of the Portobello Indoor Bowls Centre and Port Edgar Marina will come as a severe blow to the communities which they serve.

They both might not attract the same number of visitors as bigger facilities such as Meadowbank and the Commie Pool but they play an important role in the lives of many hundreds of people.

Of course, everyone understands these days that there is no bottomless pit of public money to keep open every facility that is valued by its users but can’t pay its own way.

That is the hard logic that saw the plug pulled on Leith Waterworld, although not to the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho which continues to enjoy massive public funding.

Despite making great strides in cutting its reliance on public funds, Edinburgh Leisure, which manages public sports centres on the city’s behalf, still receives around a third of its income from the council.

Millions of pounds of public cash is ploughed into unprofitable sports facilities in the Capital each year – and quite rightly. Money invested in sport tends to keep us happier and healthier.

It all comes down to priorities – and just how much money any individual centre is losing.

Replacing a bowls centre with gymnastics and soft play facilities will be popular with young families, but this should not be about only providing the facilities that will be most popular locally.

Responding to customer demand is very important, but cannot ignore the fact that this closure will make playing bowls in the winter months impossible for many.

How many of those players will lose out socially and health-wise as a result if they cannot find an alternative activity to suit them? The impact on them will be huge.

We do not yet know how the cost of keeping the bowls centre open, but every effort must be made to find a way of doing that before the demands of hundreds of bowlers are written off.