March 1, 2013 7:34 pm

Skegness braced for beach sports arena

Skegness is a long way from Brazil’s sun-kissed Copacabana beach, but the Lincolnshire seaside town, better known for its bracing east winds, could become home to a new national beach sports arena under an ambitious plan announced on Friday.

The privately owned Skegness Beach Stadium company is seeking permission from East Lindsey district council to erect a semi-permanent 2,000 seat venue on Skegness beach similar to that constructed on Horse Guards Parade in London to host beach volleyball during last summer’s Olympic Games.

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Although beach sports are traditionally more popular on the south coast, England’s beach volleyball team has held a summer camp in Skegness for the past three years. To publicise the stadium bid, England’s beach soccer team will on Sunday take to the sand to play a charity match against the local Skegness United.

Local politicians and businesses were on Friday relishing the prospect of bronzed volleyball players strutting their stuff on Skegness beach, and what their presence could do for the town’s struggling economy. “I can’t see any downside,” said Steve O’Dare of East Lindsey district council. “We’ve got some of the largest conurbations in the east Midlands within two hours’ drive. But it will have to be marketed properly.”

Mark Anderson, mayor of Skegness, added: “There will always be snipers and gripers. But we’ve got to fight to bring tourists here, and this is great news.”

Gary Shepherd, chief executive of Skegness Beach Stadium, said the stadium would be designed so that, if there was a very high tide, sea water would simply run under the stands. He also dismissed concerns about the town’s often bracing weather. “Beach soccer may have started on the Copacabana but the English will play in any weather,” he said.

Skegness is where in 1936 Billy Butlin established his first camp to provide affordable holidays for British families. Today the town’s 20,000 population is swelled by a quarter of a million holidaymakers during the summer months.

It is hoped the first matches at the arena will take place in June.

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