Part Two: Design, research, management and growth

Part One set out how the foundations were laid for the subsequent decades of rapid progress in the development and operation of sports and leisure centres. Part Two covers two decades that greatly influenced the long-term landscape of indoor community sports and leisure centres. It reflects a period when the buildings, particularly their design, use and costs, came more sharply into focus.

The designing of sports centres quickly evolved over these two decades. Initially, a small number of pioneer architects influenced centre designs. With no UK precedents for designing centres for the community these early architects drew on European examples. As more centres came along, and more architects became involved, they followed the established early pattern. It started with a pioneering design phase and led on to new developments in sports and leisure buildings, where previous experience and the brief for provision, and therefore design, became more important. We see the early role of Local Authority architects waning, the role of the private, specialist leisure architect growing and the advent of different development initiatives, including ‘design and build’ schemes. Several new design initiatives were pioneered through The Sport Council’s Technical Unit for Sport. Later some projects adopted the ‘leisure centre’ label as opposed to ‘sports’ or ‘recreation’ centre and started to break new boundaries in the designs and facilities presented. The development of leisure pools from the 1970s helped to spearhead new design and facility developments.

Part Two (Chapters 4, 5 & 6) therefore gives an overview of the design and architectural picture of the times through a series of themes and events up to 1995. It does not attempt to delve into the finer detail of the technical aspects that can be informed by reference to the relevant publications listed in the final bibliography. Chapter 9 will look at how the design of centres developed after the mid-1990s.

Part Two also explains how the search for information, derived from the provision, use and management experience of the early centres, started a hive of activity in the planning of, and research into, sports centres. From the 1960s to the 1990s, no national sports topic received more published attention than sports provision, especially sports centres. Indoor sports centres – research on their use, users and non-users, and its impact on policy, provision and management is an extensive study of the entire research activities and processes across the decades. It has been written for ‘Harlow to K2 and Beyond’ by Mike Fitzjohn and Malcolm Tungatt, two former Sports Council officers, who are highly experienced in the sports research field. The full study is the basis for the summary research and planning sections of Chapter 4 and 9, which reflect the efforts made in researching the provision and use of sports centres, especially their use.

The governance, management and operation of centres over the years is inevitably a recurring theme through the decades and Chapter 5 examines a range of issues that came to bear from the early days and over time. Operational knowledge was developed from a very low base and matured with time into a broadly accepted pattern, with some inevitable changes reflecting various influences that came along.

Local Government Reorganisation had already initiated a further surge of new centres, with around 250 centres established by 1976. This significant social phenomenon then became increasingly replicated across the UK during the next two decades. Chapter 6 examines other key influences and developments on the sports centre scene over those two decades. The whole scene became transformed from its early foundations, and by the mid-1990s the sector, with over 1,500 centres, was heading towards the 21st century and a further challenging phase.

Chapter 4: The development of design and research

There was a huge learning curve in architecture and design from the first sports centres through to innovative developments in the 1990s. In the same period the search for information derived from the provision, use and management experience of centres started a hive of research activity.

Chapter 5: The management and operation of centres

Introduction to Chapter 5

Chapter 6: The era of rapid progress and change

Introduction to Chapter 6