Harlow to K2 and Beyond

The story of the UK Sports & Leisure Centre Past, Present and Future

Sponsor & Partner

This voluntary project could only be undertaken with sponsorship. We are extremely grateful to S+P Architects, the international sports and leisure architects, for their support, and also to Baqus.


Welcome to The Sports Leisure Legacy Project

‘Harlow to K2 and Beyond’ – the definitive work on the history of indoor sports centres in the UK

The project records the history of the development of the UK community sports & leisure centre and the recreation management profession it initiated.

The first purpose-built UK indoor sports centre for the community opened in Harlow in 1964 and there are now over four thousand centres in the country. The centres continue to make a significant contribution to the social, sporting and recreational lives of communities. In developing the story, project leaders have been in touch with some of the earliest centre managers and many others across the decades.


There are 4 main Parts providing 10 main chapters of the story. It is the first comprehensive record of the establishment, development and success of UK sports & leisure centres over the diamond years of six decades. The latest techniques have been used to create a flexible website. This has enabled the Editor to provide a wealth of additional information beyond the Chapters themselves. There are hyperlinks within text which go straight to special sections for reading, and some that download to offer PDFs for opening and reading. ‘Carousels’ have also been widely used for many photos – giving a left to right selection of named centre pictures.

A special feature has been two major research papers on indoor sports centres:-

  1. Their use, users, and non-users, and its impact on policy, provision and management and
  2. the number of UK centres.

Additional special sections are also included on the main contents menu (which include some downloadable PDFs) –

  • The Index of Centres listing all centres recorded on the website
  • Sponsor, Partners and Supporter details
  • Legacy Legends & Gamechangers
  • Architects Choice – by architects
  • Quick & Easy Guide to the 10 Chapters

Part Four also includes the reflections of experienced professionals.


“Harlow to K2 and beyond”

From Harlow in 1964


“George Torkildsen and the ground breaking Harlow Sportcentre are synonymous with inspiration and innovation. This encouraged me on the road in those early days of recreation management.”

Geoff Gearing

Manager, Deeside Leisure Centre 1970-74.

to K2 in 2005


“K2 was a significant development in the sports centre story. Providing residential development on the site of a 1960’s new town centre facility fully funded K2 Crawley as well as two new satellite sites that met modern needs and provided much stronger links between our local schools and community sport.”

Nigel Sheehan

Head of Partnership Services, Crawley Borough Council

and Beyond to 2022

London Aquatics Centre: Olympics 2012 Pool
Architects: Zaha Hadid & Space + Place

“We’ve always been at the forefront of leisure design. Today our work has a primary focus on economic sustainability, driving up participation and reducing unnecessary cost. The quality of customer experience is paramount to stemming attrition from sport and maintaining required revenues.”

Keith Ashton

Director, S+P Architects

Our Supporters and Partners

The following national organisations welcome this project:

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Also supported by:

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