An important milestone in the history of Sea Cadets was achieved on Friday, 14 July with a ‘breaking ground’ ceremony that marked the beginning of the construction of the state-of-the-art Midlands Boat Station.
Located on the banks of Birmingham's Edgbaston Reservoir, this venture is set to support the community and revitalise the area. The new boat station will offer a wide range of water-based activities to thousands of young people.
Sea cadets from all over the country, together with local schools and youth groups, will be able to take part in sailing, paddle sports, power boating, rowing and windsurfing. Once completed, the boat station will also be the official home of the Birmingham Sea Cadets Unit, TS Vernon.
"We envision a premium venue for training, education, and water sports, bringing huge benefits to the entire community," said Sea Cadets CEO, Martin Coles CBE. "The new boat station will be a welcoming place for the younger generation to gain essential life skills. The facility will also provide an extraordinary waterside venue for community groups to host their events."
The community-centric project was inaugurated in the presence of Cllr Sir Albert Bore, Sea Cadets CEO Martin Coles CBE, senior contractors and a gathering of dedicated staff, volunteers, and cadets. The construction company, Speller Metcalfe, has been entrusted with the task of bringing the new structure to life.
Cllr Sir Albert Bore said: “I was delighted to take part in this event, celebrating the beginning of a project which will have such a significant and far-reaching impact on our local community, especially our young people. Well done, Sea Cadets!”
Addressing the long-standing lack of accessible waterside facilities in the Midlands, Howard Eeles, the Midlands Boat Station Manager, said: "This issue affects some 1,500 sea cadets in the region. We have 37 Sea Cadets units within a 90-minute radius of this location, who have been grappling with extended commutes for water-based training. Thankfully, those days will soon be behind us."
The young people who are part of Sea Cadets are excited about the building of their new, first-rate facility. "The new boat station will provide an upgraded, relaxed environment where I can safely enjoy time with my friends," said 13-year-old Mei.
Despite the ongoing construction work, the boat station will continue its operations, offering a variety of water-based activities and courses to sea cadets from across the country. These experiences aim to foster essential life skills and offer qualifications in first aid, sailing, navigation, marine engineering, catering and leadership.
In addition, the emerging venue will host the youth charity's outreach On The Water programme, which caters to hundreds of underprivileged youths over the summer.
"Our goal with the new boat station is to introduce many more young people to boating and water sports," said Howard. "The combined costs of purpose-built facilities, high-quality equipment and expert instruction often exclude many children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our goal is to change all that."
Situated on the banks of Edgbaston Reservoir – a 70-acre open water site within easy reach of Birmingham's city centre – the new boat station will offer double the classroom space and a 35-bed accommodation for sea cadets from across the country.
The new Sea Cadets boat station is set to be completed by autumn 2024.