Arson attack is believed to have started blaze which gutted former Robin Cousins sports centre in Bristol
THE blaze which has gutted the former Robin Cousins sports centre in Shirehampton is believed to have been started deliberately.
Fire experts combed the site off The Portway after the sports hall was reduced to a burnt out shell.
Fire spokesman Darren Bane said the police were being informed and they would carry out their own inquiries.
The sports centre was closed down in 2005 and remained empty for several years until it was used more recently as a furniture store.
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The burnt out premises contained debris which was more than two-feet deep.
The iron cladding has buckled under the heat and the brick walls are leaning over.
At the height of the blaze, 30 firefighters from four fire stations were using three hose jets to bring it under control.
They used one of the jets from a tall ladder to douse the flames from above.
Fire crews from Avonmouth, Patchway, Temple Back and Southmead raced to the scene shortly before midnight on Tuesday after reports from nearby residents of flames from the roof.
The crews worked through the night to deal with the blaze and were later relieved by firefighters from another four stations.
Labour ward councillor Dr Doug Naysmith said although the premises had not been used as a sports centre for several years, it was still sad to see such a landmark building burnt down.
He said: “That area of the ward is in desperate need of regeneration and I hope this site does not remain derelict as a result of the fire for too long.
“Many people regretted the sports centre’s closure.”
Back in December 2005, residents were devastated when the sports centre was closed as part of council cut backs.
Five swimming pools – Henbury, Bristol North, Speedwell, Shirehampton and Filwood – were shut at the same time.
Despite numerous attempts to bring the sports centre back into community use, it remained empty for several years until planning permission was granted last year for it to be used as a warehouse.
Firefighters discovered it was being used to store garden and conservatory wicker furniture.
The sports centre was named after Robin Cousins, the famous ice skater who won a gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid, New York.
Mr Cousins is the son of a Millwall goalkeeper who grew up in Sea Mills.
Since retiring from competitive skating, he has appeared in ice shows and also in theatre productions including in the West End.
More recently, he has headed a panel of judges for ITV’s popular Dancing on Ice series.