Iconic Jamaican Institution in New York Forced to Close

After over 50 years, the Wembley Athletic Sports Club based in the Bronx, New York, has closed. Current club president, Addiambo Balewa, confirmed the closure of the club that was founded by Jamaicans, adding he did not have the authority to say more than that.

Founded in the 1950s

The Wembley Athletic Sports Club was founded in the 1950s by Jamaicans who wanted to engage in sports like cricket, football, table tennis, and others. It began as a members club in a rented space on White Plains Road in the Bronx, hosting many visiting Jamaican sports personalities, elected officials from Jamaica, and other Jamaicans visiting the area. It ultimately became involved with civic functions other than sports. It acquired its own Bronx property on East 239 Street later on.

Closure Attributed to Lack of Financial Support, Aging Membership

According to lifetime Wembley member, Leslie Clarke, in an interview with The Gleaner newspaper, the club had suffered from a lack of financial support and management had not acted to turn things around. Clarke described Wembley as a “great source for community unity” and that its closure was a “great loss.” He added that unless the community comes together to support its institutions, it will continue to lose them. Attorney, radio show host, and long-time member of the club, Jeff Barnes, said the chief problem for the club was that as its membership aged new people were not attracted to it.

Community Leaders in Disbelief

Former Diaspora Council member, Dr Karren Dunkley, expressed disbelief at the closing of the Wembley Athletic Sports Club, noting that it represented a major loss to the community as it had been a focus for sports access for decades. It offered programs that encouraged talented locals and elicited feelings of unity and achievement among its participants. Without the facility, not only will there be a lack of sports facilities, but underserved populations that relied on Wembley for social engagement and initiatives for upward mobility would be further marginalized. Dunley called for the community to make stronger efforts to support and preserve legacy organizations. Co-founder and Managing Director of the New York-based Caribbean Immigrant Services, Inc., Irwine Clare of Team Jamaica Bickle, said the closure represented a legacy of losing community assets and reducing the impact of organizations based in the Jamaican community. These organizations are not attracting new, young members, said Clare, adding that he wondered why this was the case.

Wembley Closure One of Many

The loss of the Wembley Athletic Sports Club is just the latest for the Jamaican community. Previous closures include the headquarters of the Jamaica Police Officers organization on Brooklyn’s Tilden Avenue and the sale of radio station WVIP, which eliminated the broadcast of Jamaican and Caribbean programming.

Photo – YouTube

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