South London locals have welcomed improvements planned for the National Sports Centre in Crystal Palace, claiming the space is currently a “joke” and looks like it’s “rotting away”.

The Mayor of London announced last week that he would be carrying out a number of improvements to the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.

The investment, reportedly within the single millions, will look at repairing the outdoor athletics track and replacing the existing floodlights.

News Shopper: The athletics track for Crystal Palace National Sports CentreThe athletics track for Crystal Palace National Sports Centre

Indoor facilities will also be upgraded such as the fitness gym, the climbing walls and a potential children’s activity centre.

Oliver Isaac, 20, lives in Biggin Hill but said he and his family often come to Crystal Palace Park to walk the dog.

Having grown up visiting the park, he said it was “about time” the sports centre received an update.

Mr Isaac told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I’m happy to hear that. I’ve been coming here since I was a little kid so it’s nice to see they’re finally fixing the place up. It’s like watching something rot away.”

The dog walker said it’s been “depressing” to see parks and facilities from his childhood falling into disrepair over the years.

He said he feels like many public spaces in the area need a wave of gentrification to bring the interest back to them.

He said: “This place looks like it’s still in the 60s… I’ve always walked past it, I’ve watched a few things here. I can’t say I’ve ever used it, but when you leave a building long enough, it becomes an eyesore.”

A long-term investment over the next five years was also announced on May 26 to rebuild the structure of the centre’s swimming pools, among other facilities.

The 50 metre and diving pools have been closed since March 2020 due to a leak coming from a crack.

Andy Show, 42, lives in Crystal Palace and said he had found the pools’ closure “frustrating”.

Despite this, he said he appreciated the new investment and felt any news was “good news”.

Mr Show told the LDRS: “It’s a bit of a joke… It’s a shame. This place is the jewel of Crystal Palace right? It’s an attraction.”

He added: “It’s good something’s moving forward. The [athletics] track is going to benefit a lot of people which is great.

"The pool is, for me, the priority. For it to just sit there, empty, is insane. It’s been like three years.”

A Mayor of London spokesperson said in a statement that a planning application for the centre’s comprehensive redevelopment will be brought forward by April 2024, with the long term investment in repairs believed to be in the tens of millions.

Mr Show said he was an advocate for all of the centre’s facilities, and feels they attract athletes from the wider UK to the area.

He said: “It just needs money from somewhere. You can see it’s a 60s or 70s build and I don’t think it’s had a penny put into it since.”

Jeshan Shrestha, 35, and his wife Gina, 28, live in Croydon after moving from Nepal three years ago, and come to Crystal Palace for walks.

News Shopper: Jeshan Shrestha, 35, and his wife Gina, 28, shown in front of the athletics track of the sports centreJeshan Shrestha, 35, and his wife Gina, 28, shown in front of the athletics track of the sports centre

Mr Shrestha said he thinks young people will benefit from updates to the running track and football pitch.

He told the LDRS: “From a young age, if they’re getting this facility, of course when they grow up they are going to be a very proficient player.

"In my country, we get this when we are getting professional, other than that we have to play outside in a yard.”

A Crystal Palace Sports Partnership spokesperson told the LDRS they were delighted to hear of the Mayor’s investment into the sports venue.

They said the partnership had been campaigning for repairs to the centre since 2014 and felt its partial closure was due to a “managed decline” of the facilities.

Crystal Palace Sports Partnership John Powell MBE told the LDRS: “I just hope this is not early electioneering by the Mayor.

"There is a Mayoral election next May, and we all know how politicians behave in the run-up to elections.”

A Mayor of London spokesperson told the LDRS that the early improvements for the site had been planned while the long-term renovation plans were developed.

They also said a “significant” budget had been set aside for the redevelopment to secure the centre’s future for years to come.

They said: “The Mayor recognises that the National Sports Centre is a hugely important sporting and community facility for the capital and the country, where many UK sporting stars have started their careers and trained for success.

"That is why he is committed to the renovation of the site and securing its future for decades to come.

"The centre was built in the 1960s and investigations have shown that some of the structural elements of the building now need to be fully replaced.”

Labour Councillor Ryan Thomson, representing the Crystal Palace and Anerley ward for Bromley Council, told the LDRS that the centre was an enormous source of local pride given its sporting history.

He said the space was where many residents had played or learned to swim as children and locals have since taken their own kids to the centre.

Cllr Thomson told the LDRS: “We are delighted with the Mayor of London’s announcement because it safeguards this opportunity for future generations, ensuring they have the chance to build precious lifelong memories at the NSC too, though a special thanks is also owed to the Crystal Palace Sports Partnership.

"They have fought tirelessly over the years to protect the centre and even inspired our own campaign to save the NSC.

“With this news from the Mayor, coupled with the huge investment already planned for our beloved Crystal Palace Park, it certainly is a very exciting time to be a Palacian!”