The construction of a sports center in the middle of one of the districts where the PP gets the most votes is on its way to becoming a major problem for the government team in Madrid after it has angered families, neighbors, sports clubs and caused a fissure between the two parties that govern in Cibeles.
Almeida will build a gym on a basketball court to privatize the Parque Móvil sports center
Two weeks ago, the residents of this central area of the capital discovered that the basketball and indoor soccer field that was being built in the facilities next to the Mobile Park would be cut up to turn it into a gym. The reason for this unexpected action was to increase the profitability of the sports center, which will also have a swimming pool, in order to privatize its management. The Board of Chamberí, responsible for the action, calculated that the concession company will be able to enter 864,474 euros in each season. But he did not count on the reaction of its inhabitants.
In this part of Madrid there are hardly any sports spaces, much less covered. Being able to use the Parque Móvil basketball court was an old demand from their neighbors and students from nearby schools, who have to travel to other districts to be able to practice team sports. So, upon learning of the intentions of Almeida’s team, the families of the San Cristóbal public school, located next to the sports center, quickly mobilized: first by organizing a collection of signatures that reached 1,400 supportsthen calling for meetings with all political parties, and then calling a protest to take their cause to the streets this week.
This Friday’s demonstration was supported by about 300 people, including many students from San Cristóbal and other surrounding schools, who came to support the maintenance of the covered field and say no to the gym. They warn that the demand for this type of facility is more than covered in Chamberí, with more than 30 bodybuilding businesses. And that what they need is places to play as a team.
“We want the track, we are athletes”, shouted dozens of children at the march, while holding up posters drawn by themselves asking for spaces to practice “volleyball, basketball, badminton and futsal”. Meanwhile, they walked through the space that separated them on foot from the sports center and concentrated next to the future entrance to the sports center, in Cea Bermúdez.
As a claim for the use of public space to play sports, the students set up a soccer field with two goals on the sidewalks. And they began to hit the ball in the middle of the street, in an image that had not been seen for a long time in this part of the neighborhood.
While the little ones played, the older ones talked about the possibilities that their demands would be met. “The project is nonsense, we trusted that once the works were finished we were going to recover that space for physical education classes because our school has many deficiencies in terms of infrastructure,” the president of the Ampa del San Cristóbal explained to this newspaper , María García Viana, lamenting the difficulties of her 400 students to play sports.
His protest has been joined by basketball or volleyball sports clubs that are training in other fields and that have “many problems of ceding spaces” for not having a court like the one that was being built in the Mobile Park.
“We are optimistic and we believe that they are going to maintain the track project,” they added from Ampa. “This is not about political colors. It is about boys, girls and young people who need the facilities to be able to practice sports”, points out María who, after the meetings with the parties, explains that her position has “a lot of support” among municipal politicians “facing the plenary session” .
This is not about political colors. It is about boys, girls and young people who need the facilities to practice sports
The plenary session to which the families of the school refer is the one that will be held next Wednesday at the Chamberí Board. Three political proposals will be voted on, one led by the PSOE, another from Más Madrid and a third formulated by Ampa himself, who ask to keep the basketball court as it is and discard the gym project. Even Vox will ask the district councilor, Javier Ramírez (PP), what alternatives he plans to give the San Cristóbal students in the face of the possible loss of the track.
The proposals have signs of going ahead because Citizens also see the requests of the neighbors as reasonable. The deputy mayor herself, Begoña Villacís, met with the families of the San Cristóbal school this Thursday to convey the party’s support for their demands, sources present at the meeting told Somos Chamberí. From the Ciudadanos environment, they explain that this public endowment “is called to respond to the needs of the neighbors and the needs of the surrounding schools must occupy a central position in their use planning”.
The opposition parties trust in this support, although they fear that the mayor responsible for the district will be blind to his project despite not having any support outside his party. “I have less confidence that the councilor will pay attention, because Ramírez does not usually take into account what the associative fabric or common sense says,” indicated the PSOE spokesperson at the City Council, Mar Espinar, from the protest. “They are making the mistake of building a city behind the backs of the citizens: this government is determined to build a facility that families do not need and no one has asked for,” she lamented along with the protesters.
Sources from Más Madrid also hope that there will be “sensitivity” in the vote on Wednesday and that Villacís’s visit to Chamberí “bears fruit, that the commitment is real and that they transfer the needs to the councilor,” they comment. Mayor Jorge García Castaño, who devised the sports center project last legislature, and regional deputy Hugo Martínez Abarca attended the demonstration.
More Madrid has denounced that eliminating the basketball court will mean “throwing away” 1.5 million of the 5.9 that it will cost to finish the works, since for the construction of the court it was necessary to dig more of the land than if a gym would have been built, an installation that does not require high ceilings.
Eight years waiting for a clue
The old Parque Móvil sports center closed in June 2014, after more than seven decades of service first to the workers of this park and then to the residents of Chamberí. The land was transferred to the City Council by Patrimony of the State just after the closure, so that it could carry out the construction works of a new sports facility. It stands in a peculiar area of Madrid, nestled in the Colonia de San Cristóbal next to the Parque Móvil del Estado, the enormous building that is now used by the national government for parking and vehicle repair.
The Cea Bermúdez Sports Center will become the third sports center with a swimming pool in the area, the second to be privatized before the end of the legislature. In Chamberí there is also the Vallehermoso Sports Center (in the Philippine Islands), for which there is no free access, and the one that is going to be built next to Cuatro Caminos, which was going to have a sports court but whose project was changed by the Almeida equipment before being tendered: the gym space will be larger and its construction and management will be handed over to a company for the next 25 years.