Chapter 10: The 21st Century revolution and its context

10.1 Four decades of progress and change

The previous Chapters especially have led us to the provision of sports and leisure centres in the 21st Century. This Chapter concisely summarises the main influences on the scene for the period up to 2021, before focusing specifically on the centres that have emerged in the first two decades of this century. On entering the new century, UK leisure centres had already operated for nearly four decades. They had become a familiar feature of our landscape and woven into the social fabric of local communities. As we have seen through the Chapters, there were huge changes in those decades in how centres were planned, designed, managed, and welcomed.

Landmark Harlow 1964

Previous chapters have recorded some key benchmarks in the history of centres: –

  • The first landmark sports centres from 1964.
  •  A huge numerical expansion across the UK in the early 1970s.
  • The emergence of ‘leisure’ centres from the mid-1970s and 1980s, many with leisure pools.
  • The advent of Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) and subsequently the formation of national and local trusts to manage centres.

In particular, Chapter 8 set the scene for the revolution in operational management following CCT, leading to the pre-eminence of trusts, local and national, in the operational management of centres; Chapter 9 highlighted how the overall approach to research, planning and design evolved and how it came to influence new centre developments towards the 21st Century. Research led by the National Sports Councils of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland; National Lottery funding; more sophisticated local authority strategic and planning processes; and the role of architects all played their part. Such had been the progress since Harlow New Town’s first steps in the 1960s, that through the 1990s a broader leisure picture had emerged, alongside the increasing need for the maintenance and modernisation of the existing and largely ageing leisure centre stock. Increasingly towards 2000 many Local Authorities focused on facility assessments. ‘Refurbish or renew’ options for their centres were at the heart of these considerations. By the 21st century the problems became a real challenge, especially in respect of the costs of operating and maintaining centres.

Snozone Milton Keynes

Centres had also started to fit into a much broader leisure industry picture. The traditional view of what constitutes a leisure facility started to change. As well as public leisure centres, other centres emerged specifically for health & fitness; healthy living; family entertainment; youth activity; bowling; and climbing activities, and more. Some of these activities are being incorporated into new public leisure centres, but increasingly some are also private, commercial investments or ventures by charitable organisations.

At the start of the 21st Century, in welcoming delegates to the Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management’s 2000 National Conference, Mike Fulford, ILAM

ILAM Conference – to the right – Mike Fulford

President, said “One of the results of the recent rise in profile of leisure services is that the operating environment has become more fragmented and more complex, with a wider role for central and local government”. In his last article for ‘Leisure Manager’ in 2005, George Torkildsen (1934-2005), reflected on the four decades from Harlow (1964) to the early plans for K2 in Crawley at the start of this century. As George stated, as the 21st century got underway, “Here we are today with more people in the field, more facilities, and a new profession”. What has not changed in this century is the constant discussion, review and publications on strategic approaches to public leisure provision. This Chapter takes us to 2021, reflecting on two decades of new centre initiatives. We also very briefly record the initial impact on centres of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 (leaving others in the future to note the longer-term implications for centres and indeed society).

10.2 Influences and trends for the 21st Century

10.2.1    Politics, policies and strategies

Local and national political and strategic considerations have continued to provide a backcloth to leisure centre development since 2000. In the case of centres there have been five prime factors and drivers of change in this period:-

  1. Community well-being

    The differing responses of local authorities, strategically and practically, to the declining condition of many long-established centres.

  2. The economic crash of 2008/2009 which led to a decade of financial austerity and further weakened the capital and revenue position of local authorities.
  3. A growing major concern about community health, well-being, and fitness.
  4. A swathe of school building programmes encompassing indoor and outdoor sports provision and
  5. The initial (and ongoing) impact of the Covid Pandemic from 2020, which added huge additional pressures to the sports sector, including centres, as it did across the whole of society.

The strategic support for centre provision has remained largely undimmed through the last six decades. In its response to the Government consultation for a new strategy for sport in 2015, the Local Government Association (LGA) stated “Councils are the biggest public spenders on community sport spending some £1.4 billion per year, excluding capital spend, on sport, leisure, recreation and open spaces. Local authorities, who are now responsible for public health, are also spearheading the fight against inactivity and obesity and they recognise sport is crucial in helping keep communities healthy.” Wokingham Borough Council (WBC), for example, in 2017 in setting out the case for a ‘Leisure Strategy’ stated “WBC recognises the significant benefits that the provision of sport and leisure activities and facilities can bring to the physical, social and economic health of our communities”. This sentiment is typical of most local strategies (see Ch. 9) and can be found in slightly different words in most and therein, as ever, lies one of the fundamental justifications for the public provision of centres.

10.2.2 Broad changes and influences

There have been a range of broad changes, influences and trends which evolved towards and into the new century. They have provided the context to the development of 21st Century centres. Highly influential since the end of the last century have been some broad social changes; sporting trends; the health and well-being agenda, as mentioned; sustainability issues; operational management trends and progress in technology. The overall profile of sport has risen, particularly through the media and the increasing number of TV channels carrying sport. The 2012 London Olympics, Paralympics and Invictus Games have played a part. The role played by women’s sport, competitively and recreationally, has increased significantly. There has also been a greater focus on sport and recreation opportunities for those with disabilities. Thus the evolving role of fitness, health, sport and leisure in society have been crucial in the decision making for facility provision, especially in the last 10 years. These influences are embodied in the new and refurbished centres illustrated in this Chapter (see 10.4).

10.2.3 Provision and participation – sporting and health trends

In the development and management of 21st century centres, a range of direct influences, changes and trends can be noted. One of the biggest of these has been from the original need to provide indoor facilities for specific sports to the new focus on fitness, well-being and exercise participation rates. This change of priority and emphasis has led to an even more important fitness role for swimming pools. The technology of moveable floors and booms has increased flexibility and pool programming potential. This has been alongside the need to replace many freestanding pools that did not need replacing at the time of new ‘dry’ sports centres in the 1970s and 1980s. Thus traditional pools are back in strong focus, alongside a significant decline in new leisure pool provision. There has been a parallel decline in large 2-basketball court-size sports halls with 1 court of basketball size often being provided, or even occasionally no sports hall, given the budget emphasis on pools. More activity rooms are also being provided for other popular group physical exercise activities.

Additionally, ambitious plans for new schools, which embrace new indoor sports facilities for school and community use, have greatly added to the stock of facilities available for public or group use (see 10.2.5). The changed role of Sport England and UK Sport and a changed focus in Lottery Grant distribution, have also been influential in providing new facilities. The decline in some areas of outdoor bowling has consequently seen a decline in new

Newcastle Eagles Basketball Centre

indoor rink provision in Local Authority centres. There has been an increase in non-LA specialist facilities dedicated to just one or two sports and usually run directly by clubs and community associations (e.g. – gymnastics; trampolining; basketball, indoor bowls). For example, Newcastle Eagles Basketball Club developed their own centre, which is sometimes available to the community.

There have also been operational and funding trends, notably: –

  • The dominance of the market by larger/national trusts as a result of smaller local trusts failing financially or losing contracts on re-tender; with a few ‘voluntary organisation’ takeovers where councils wish to close well-loved local facilities.
  • Flexible and innovative approaches by Local Authorities to the capital funding of new centres.
  • Trusts, especially the larger ones, becoming more directly involved in new centre development, including in capital funding and naming rights.
10.2.4    Operational, marketing and facility trends
  • The digital age of the 21st Century – marketing and the media

21st Century centres have largely run parallel with the growth of innovative technology and the digital age. To this day, from the very first centres, the media, through the printed press, and now also through modern digital communication, has played a significant role in conveying information about new centre developments, activities and special events. Indeed, marketing and publicity have been significant issues for leisure centres in this digital age. The digital age has brought customer communications through centre websites and social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube) to the fore and to a new level of significance (see Social Media and Leisure Centres). The ability to book activities online has been just one example of the transformation. The growing digital and printed press have taken more interest in recording the development and activities of centres, and equally trust organisations and centres have taken advantage of the opportunities afforded to them. There has been a parallel growth of media interest in all sport and leisure over the years and multi-channel TV coverage across an increasing number of sports. The internet has greatly broadened, and extended media activity related to sports centres and their activities. Of course, sports and leisure centres have usually been a rich vein to mine, especially for local newspapers. However, the comprehensive and informed marketing and publicity of centres in the digital age is in marked contrast to the period of the Sports Council Management Award during the first twenty-five years of centres. One of the most common criticisms of centres by Award assessors was poor centre marketing, publicity and associated budgeting.

The Leisure Media Company Limited is the country’s leading commercial publisher of printed and online business magazines for professionals working in the sports, leisure, health, fitness, spa and attractions industries. It gives significant coverage to new leisure centre developments (and has been a valuable source of information on centres for this Chapter). It sits alongside the smaller role played by CIMSPA, CLOA and Community Leisure producing magazines and newsletters for their membership. Leisure Media was founded by Liz Terry MBE. Leisure Media has become highly respected in the industry it serves. It now publishes a wide range of digital, online and printed services. It is the only national commercial publishing company serving the leisure and recreation sector and thus almost unique in its coverage of leisure centres. In 2020-21 it played a leading role in publicising sport and recreation issues, especially around facilities, during the Covid-19 pandemic. See the full story here.

10.2.5    Community indoor sports provision completely re-defined by 2021

We have recorded the history of the UK sports and leisure centre, having started with the original definition of … “An indoor centre with a sports hall and some other facilities, which may include a swimming pool and has significant use by the general public.”  We have continued to follow the development of centres through the prism of centres provided by the local authorities which take a lead on leisure provision or have worked with Education Authorities on jointly provided or dual-use schemes on school sites. Much has changed over time. As we saw in Chapter 8, the shift towards the independence of schools, first through the Local Management of Schools (LMS), and then the development of Academies, largely started to rule out such joint schemes involving the lead leisure authorities, especially in England. There has been a huge increase in the provision of sports halls and centres on school sites which fit our original definition. Many of these facilities brand themselves as local sports centres. Our research for this Chapter, through ‘Active Places’ has highlighted this little publicised but enormous increase in education-based facilities. (‘Active Places Power’ is an online interactive mapping and reporting tool for community sport development and facilities provided by Sport England – see special section – ‘The Numbers – The Finale’). In England alone over 1,300 facilities, most of which fit our original definition, have opened on school sites since 2000, with a further 200 on Further and Higher Education sites, often with outdoor artificial turf pitches and supported with National Lottery grant. This significant growth can be attributed to a combination of factors: –

  • Schools, which had indoor gyms or sports facilities built in the 1960s or before, and were in need of replacement, developed ambitious plans for new schools that embraced new indoor sports facilities for school and community use, as mentioned in 10.2.3;
  • from 1995 any Lottery Grants required well planned community use;
  • The growth of school academies – which increasingly recruit trusts to manage the larger facilities and
  • ‘Academisation,’ accompanied by significant capital funding, has certainly helped growth on school sites. There has also been a general acceptance that modern indoor and outdoor sports facilities are now part and parcel of school provision, can generate some income for the school and fit a more outgoing community role adopted by modern school governance. Some of these developments are mentioned in our examples. Thus, the indoor sports and leisure centre scene, as originally conceived and defined, has changed into an enormous, complex and amorphous combination of thousands of public indoor facilities. Active Places suggests that England has a total of 3,760 public centres of all types, half of which have been built in the last 20 years. Thus, from all our research and by our original definition, the total number of UK centres in 2021 must be at least 4,500.

View 4 pictures below, left to right, click to enlarge for captions.

University of East Anglia

A significant feature of the 21st Century sporting scene has been the burgeoning of university sports centres, not least as part of attracting students to particular institutions. This is in the context of a competitive student enrolment market influenced by tuition fees. There are numerous new university sports centre developments stretching across the UK from Aberystwyth to Aberdeen and East Anglia to Belfast (see University Sports Centres: 21st Century by Degrees).

School and university sports facilities, and their use by the community, have come a long way from the days of the Bingham and Worksop school sports centres in Nottinghamshire in the late 1960s (see Chapter 8), and Sheffield University’s Goodwin Sports Centre in the early 1960s (see 8.1.2).

10.2.6    A changed landscape for major centres but consistent local authority ownership

Whilst today, 2021 sees a much-changed landscape for centres, one of the unchanging factors through the first two decades of this century is the continuing and key role of the lead local authorities for leisure provision. They have remained in ownership of, and ultimately responsible for, and supportive for, most major public community leisure centres.

10.3 Bold responses in the 21st Century

10.3.1    Renewal, regeneration and renaissance

The first two decades of the 21st century can be seen as something of a further revolution in new leisure centres with the widespread and ongoing renewal of leisure centre buildings. This process of renewal has largely been a matter of necessity, as centres built 20, 30, or more years ago showed their age. This has been reflected in the declining appearance of the buildings, both outside and inside, the increasing costs of operating and maintaining older buildings, rising customer expectations and environmental and health and safety issues. In 2006 the Audit Commission recorded that “65% of local authority sports

Neath LC & town regeneration

centres and swimming pools were over 20 years old”. The 2006 National Facilities Audit in Scotland estimated the upgrade or replacement of the indoor and outdoor sports stock would cost £100M annually for the next 25 years. Many new centres have been seen as part of regeneration schemes rather than just free-standing buildings, and often sited in new locations and increasingly linked with commercial developments of housing and/or retail. Regeneration of course is about more than buildings – it is also about people, organisations, and the quality of life.

The 21st Century has also been a period of renaissance for centres. The renaissance has been rooted in revised thinking and innovative ideas and justifications for centres – their design, facilities, role, customer expectations and operation. Some partnership centre buildings, embracing leisure, libraries, health facilities and some other civic services, have consequently arrived on the scene. All this renewal, regeneration and renaissance have come together in the 21st century to provide a vast number of new and refurbished community leisure centres. The 21st Century surge in developments both represents a reawakening in new provision and the underpinning of the future of centres. This has happened despite a considerable range of financial limitations and practical pressures on local government, the prime providers.

10.3.2    Fighting austerity alongside tackling the prime well-being concerns

The entire picture of centres between 2000 and 2021 is underpinned by the desire of local authorities to retain the benefits of centres, whether by refurbishment of existing centres, or entirely new provision, often in new locations, based on updated demographic data, and often under changed management arrangements. Alongside this, revenue budgets of Councils have been hit by national austerity measures since 2009. This has put pressure on available capital for renewal and on revenue for centre operations. Thus, architectural plans and contract negotiations with trusts have focused on reductions in operating costs, achieving increased income and often with some capital input from trusts themselves. It has taken strong will on the part of local authorities to plan, justify and fund the numerous new centres in this century.

As many new centres are being linked to regeneration schemes to re-develop parts of cities and towns, this is reminiscent of the development of some new towns that generated sports centres 50 or 60 years ago. Planning gain under the Community Infrastructure Levy, as part of the funding mechanism, has also assisted in the provision of new centres. To reinforce the case for new centres their physical and social well-being benefits have come to the fore again. Saying ‘again’ reflects that from the days of Harlow onwards these centre benefits have been part of the array of justifications for such public capital and revenue investment. The huge concerns raised this century about health and well-being and fitness have had a big impact on the attitude and behaviour of a swathe of the population and on the strategic investment responses by local authorities.

Now in 2021 there is a new, major challenge for public centres and indeed local authorities overall – the financial and operational impact on centres and trusts of the Covid 19 pandemic. The impact is yet to fully unfold.

10.4 21st Century Centres

10.4.1  Leisure Centre Developments from 2000 to 2021+

This section provides information on a wide range of centres built new, extended or refurbished over the first two decades of the 21st Century. The centres selected for the chronicle in 10.4.2 are befitting of two decades of development and are the majority of the vast number of new freestanding projects or refurbishments developed or planned by lead leisure authorities since 2000. A small number of the many new, school-based facilities are also included. Our research shows that from 2000 to the start of 2021 there have been about 350 such major centre projects, including refurbishments, completed by the lead leisure authorities across the regions of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with many more planned.  Virtually all the new projects are operated by trust organisations on behalf of the owning local authorities. The huge increase in education-based facilities that we have described has, in addition, added immensely to the overall UK stock of publicly accessible sports and leisure centres that are in accordance with our original Project definition. The total stands at around 4,500. However, as shown in the detailed examples in 10.4.2., increasing diversification in the leisure market in recent years has resulted in some new centres being built without sports halls, some sports halls being converted to specialist uses (large multi-station gyms, and climbing and trampolining centres, for example), and also some existing sports halls being sub-divided into smaller, more manageable, spaces. None of these, of course, technically now meet the original Project definition of an indoor sports centre, so the actual total of all ‘activity centres’, with or without sports halls, is somewhat larger.

In the early days of sports centres there were many well established swimming pools. Where it was considered that the pools were serviceable, a new ‘dry’ leisure centre was often built elsewhere or at best adjacent to the pool. Increasingly through the years, as new centres were developed, they incorporated new pools, replacing the old ones elsewhere. We see, since 2000, that the pressure on revenue costs, including maintenance, has increasingly seen old pools closing as new centres open, and, in limited cases, even if the new centre does not have a pool.

As the century has moved on, new centre developments, with a greater focus on sustainability and long-term investment value, have numerically outweighed refurbishment projects. Nonetheless there have been many successful projects to revamp centres, in some cases to almost create a ‘new’ centre. Billingham Forum (1967) is an outstanding refurbishment example (see 2012). New centres have also usually been part of a wider review of an authority’s centre stock and often involved new locations and the closure and demolition of older centres. Occasionally even the closure or demolition of old centres can be drawn out for one reason or another. An example is the sad sight and uncertainty about the redundant Oasis Centre in Swindon, which boasted ‘the biggest leisure dome in Europe’ when it opened in 1976. The dome has been listed Grade 2 by Historic England. The Oasis closed in 2020.

View pictures below, left to right, click to enlarge for captions.

Ice Rink Crowtree section still standing

Another is the derelict ice rink, the one-third of Crowtree Leisure Centre left standing and not demolished in Sunderland’s City Centre, and possibly awaiting retail use. Crowtree had closed in 2011 after 34 years. More new centre projects are part of wider public sector and commercial regeneration, or have incorporated some other community services (e.g., libraries and GP surgeries). Many of the key challenges, trends and successes in centre development this century are reflected in 10.4.2, which is a chronicle of around 340 different 21st Century Centres.

Ponteland MUGA

The selection also reflects trends and influences and the many similarities and differences between the approaches taken to new strategic public leisure centres. Most noticeable is the developing consistency of facility ingredients. The majority of new centres have a mix selected, according to aims, from – 25m pools and teaching pools, often with moveable floors and dividers; 4-court sports halls; studios and cycle spinning rooms for the wide range of popular exercise classes; and very large fitness gyms to generate activity and membership income; sauna and steam rooms (which remain popular) plus an increasing number of challenging climbing walls and soft play areas. Outdoor facilities were rarely added in the rush to build indoor centres up to the 1990s (with the exception of floodlit 5-a-side ATP pitches that were added later, which largely moved football out of sports halls) However, today, outdoor facilities are often added, where possible. The addition of outdoor facilities is reminiscent of the early Harlow, Bracknell and Gosling Park centres of the 1960s and early 1970s, which included outdoor facilities and largely proved exceptions at that time. It is also noted that there are now very few leisure pools or indoor bowls greens being included in new centres.

Ponteland Pitches

What is most noticeable in the recording of 21st century centres, especially since K2 opened in Crawley (see 2005), is the remarkable consistency in the facilities now provided in most large, modern centres. Indeed, it is almost as if there is a national standard for modern facilities – with health, fitness and adventure at the heart of the approach. However, the actual development processes employed for new centres do vary. We now see a great deal of single partnerships on design, funding, construction and operation involving a Council, their selected operating trust, and the architect and construction company, sometimes with one partner coordinating the project and its funding. In a number of cases the UK Leisure Framework has been used. This allows for the direct appointment of a partner (Alliance Leisure) for scoping, design, refurbishment, construction and development of leisure centres, theatres, play facilities, recreation facilities and sports facilities across the UK public sector. It also supports the marketing of these types of facilities. The Framework was procured in accordance with EU Procurement Regulations by Denbighshire County Council (DCC), and after an extensive tendering and evaluation process Alliance Leisure Services were appointed. The Framework is therefore owned by DCC but a management board comprising both DCC Officers and Alliance Leisure personnel has been established to monitor and develop the Framework. The Framework is available to all UK public sector organisations.

So, whilst overall, far fewer 21st century refurbishments have been implemented than new centres constructed, the refurbishments have been many and have loosely fallen into several broad categories. Firstly, those that are often presented as ‘new centres’ but are substantially extended and enhanced existing centres. Then there are those where an extension is built for a new fitness gym or to increase the existing gym size in order to enhance the membership ‘money spinner’, or add group exercise or spin studios, or add a swimming pool to a ‘dry’ centre. Other refurbishments can be considered as general appearance modifications and minor enhancements for the customer experience. Nonetheless, some of the latter centres were still replaced a few years after their refurbishment.

The start of a revival
New centres abound across the UK
Major replacements and improvements continue
Councils continue to deliver new and refurbished centres
2022-2024+ . . .

Click on the calendar icons below to read about that year…

See 21st Century Centres Index.  [Click through this link to the PDF]

2000-2005 – The start of a revival
  1. 2000

    2000 Lagan Valley

    The start of the century saw the Lagan Valley Leisureplex open in Lisburn in Northern Ireland in 2000. Its large leisure pool with slides proved a great attraction for children from day one. It was officially opened by Olympian, Dame Mary Peters. In November Darlaston Swimming & Fitness Centre opened in Walsall and the same year Ramsgate Sports Centre in Kent opened with a sports hall, fitness gym and ancillary facilities.

    The Isle of Wight saw the West Wight Sports Centre open in 2000 with quite a history behind it – the kind that is not dissimilar to how some other centres emerged through voluntary community initiatives. The West Wight Swimming Pool began in the early 1970s through a group of parents starting a swimming club and fundraising for a basic pool, which was officially opened by Lord Louis Mountbatten in 1978.

    2000 West Wight Sports Centre

    A roof was completed later that year. Not content, they went on to fundraise for and open a learner pool in 1990. In 1997, in conjunction with the local Parish Council, Totland, (which had received £250k for planning gain) they made a successful joint Lottery application for £1.8m. In May 2000 the new West Wight Sports Centre opened with a new sports hall, refurbished pools, fitness gym, cafe and other facilities.

  2. 2001

    2001  Splash Stockton

    Stockton Splash opened in 2001. The old Stockton Swimming Pool had been opened in 1859 on the closure of the Public Baths (which had been built in 1825, the same year as the famous Stockton to Darlington Railway). The old Swimming Pool was closed in 1969 and went into private ownership, to be replaced on an adjacent site by the “new” Stockton Baths in 1972. Both the old Pool and the new Baths were demolished in May 1999 to make way for the Splash, a £5m leisure pool located in central Stockton. Splash, a new £5m leisure pool, was located in central Stockton. The developing story of Splash follows us through to 2009 and 2021. In October 2001 Bushey Grove Leisure Centre in Hertfordshire officially opened with a full range of facilities, replacing the earlier Hartspring Centre and Bushey Pool. This was a replacement trend that was to be repeated elsewhere for the next two decades. That same year, one of the Lottery-funded school-based centres, St. Just Sports Centre was opened by Cornwall Council on the Cape Cornwall school site. It had a 4-badminton court sports hall, fitness gym and cycle spinning suite.

    2001  St. Ives

    The Council also developed St. Ives Leisure Centre in the same year. The location of this new-build sports complex for St. Ives is high above the town and required sensitive design. The form of the building with its curved mono-pitched roof was designed to blend the building with its prominent hillside position. Stone facings embedded the building into the site. Opened in July 2001, it has a 25m competition swimming pool, learner pool, fitness suite, exercise studio and cafe.

    By now refurbishment schemes were underway across the UK as earlier centres began to show their age. In 2001 an early Scottish sports centre, Allander Sports Centre (1977), underwent a major refurbishment of its two pools, large 8-badminton court sports hall and  other facilities, including squash courts, 3G outdoor pitches and café.

  3. 2002

    2002  White Horse Leisure & Tennis

    Dearne Valley Leisure Centre replaced Denaby Pool in 2002. The Centre, in Mexborough in the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster, offers an interesting design and layout and houses a swimming pool, fitness gym and a floodlit outdoor artificial turf pitch (ATP). 2002 also saw the Vale of White Horse District Council open it’s £10m White Horse Leisure and Tennis Centre, providing an 8-lane swimming pool, a sports hall and six dedicated indoor and ten outdoor tennis courts. English Partnerships helped pay for preliminary site work at the Abingdon Science Park. It replaced the famous conversion of the old Abingdon Gaol into a sports centre in 1974. Lichfield District Council’s Burntwood Leisure Centre was opened in January 2002, providing a full range of ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ facilities. Colburn Leisure Centre, a ‘dry’ centre in Richmondshire, North Yorkshire, also opened in 2002. Built in 1988, North Mainland Leisure Centre in Brae on the Shetland Islands underwent an expansion that year, with ‘dry’ facilities being added to the existing 3-lane 16.7m pool.

    2002  Clissold Leisure Centre

    A variety of major building projects have got into difficulties in their development and operational opening over the years. Probably top of the list for leisure centres is Hackney’s Stoke Newington centre, the Clissold Leisure Centre. In 1996 one of Britain’s hottest young designers, Stephen Hodder, was given the £7M leisure centre project. Its design is reminiscent of an airport terminal. By the time of tenders in 1997 tenders it had risen to £13M. After much delay it eventually opened in 2002, by then at a cost of £32M. That was not the end of the story, because of problems it closed 18 months later. An investigation revealed the building “had severe design faults”. The Council received an out of court settlement from the architects and contractors, which then helped fund £13M of work, including a new roof. It did not reopen until 2007 when the cost had reached £45M. (see The Guardian and articles on Clissold). Stephen Hodder went on to later become President of RIBA for two years. Clissold is still operating in 2021.

  4. 2003

    2003  Crosby Leisure Centre

    By 2003 another significant school-based centre opened in inner-city Bristol – St. Paul’s Community Academy at a cost of c.£5m. Crosby Leisure Centre, in Sefton on Merseyside, was an important milestone, opening in 2003 and being the first leisure centre in the country developed under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) agreement. Burnt Oak Leisure Centre in Edgware also opened in 2003, with a sports hall and health & fitness suite. A £2m extension to Blackwater Leisure Centre in Maldon District was completed in 2003 providing a 4-court sports hall and a new Harpers Gym. In the same year the Northumberland market town of Alnwick, which only had a small, old pool, welcomed its first ever leisure centre, a new £7m facility, the Willowburn Leisure Centre, providing a 25m pool, sports hall and health spa. It was officially opened by football legend, Bobby Robson. Willowburn later had an extension valued at £510,000 for a multi-fitness studio in 2008. Loughton Leisure Centre in Epping Forest and Carterton Leisure Centre in West Oxfordshire arrived in 2003.

  5. 2004

    2004  Dartmouth Leisure Centre

    As mentioned in a previous chapter, the South West Region had been slower to develop new centres. So, alongside Cornwall County Council’s efforts, South Hams District Council, with support from Sport England, Dartmouth Town Council and Devon County Council, opened a new £2.5m building, Dartmouth Leisure Centre in 2004.

    South Lanarkshire Council’s Lifestyle’s Eastfield Leisure Centre is an integrated community leisure, lifestyle and social care centre and was the first of its kind in Scotland when it opened in 2004. It has a 25-metre pool, health suite and sauna cabins and fitness studio and coffee shop. The day service within Eastfield caters for a maximum of 60 adults with learning disabilities each week. This purpose-built facility offers accommodation for people with a wide range of both learning and physical disabilities including: a computer

    2004  Eastfield Leisure Centre

    controlled multi-sensory room, a number of general-purpose rooms, a dedicated art room with equipment for pottery and also personal care areas which allow clients with complex needs to have every aspect of their care managed in a calm and inviting environment. (The latest refurbishments, completed in August 2015, mean that the Centre also now provides a bright, spacious and modernised fitness gym). It was a good addition to the city’s leisure facilities. Special features of the pool include the moving floor that can be raised to deck level and be lowered all the way to two metres. The pool can be divided into smaller sections using a boom, making it suitable for all events including swimming lessons and galas while also being suitable for swimmers of all ages and abilities. A pool pod to hoist users with disabilities is available along with fully accredited Changing Places facilities.

    2004  Ionad Spors Leodhais (Lewis Sports Centre)

    Chesterton Sports Centre was opened at Chesterton Community College in Cambridge in the summer of 2004. It has a swimming pool, sports hall, gym, aerobics studio, fitness suite, and 3G AstroTurf pitches. 2004 also saw Watford Council open Westfield Community Sports Centre with a sports hall, health & fitness suite and an outdoor synthetic pitch. Ionad Spors Leodhais (Lewis Sports Centre) opened in 2004 as a dual-use regional facility for the Outer Hebrides and was supported by the largest-ever sports facility grant from SportScotland. It has a swimming pool, climbing wall, sports hall, fitness gym, dance studio, squash courts, jacuzzi/sauna/steam room and a café. Outdoor it has an Astro Turf pitch and running track. The local school use the centre on weekdays. It is part of the Leisure Link Partnership that allows members of fitness schemes in Highland, Moray, Orkney, The Western Isles, Argyll and Bute and the Borders to access gym, public swimming and fitness classes at leisure facilities across all of these regions at no extra cost.

    2004  Harrow Leisure Centre

    One of the larger centres to be developed in Greater London in the 1970s was Harrow Leisure Centre.  A fire was started in a locker by two boys on Guy Fawkes night in 2003. The Centre was busy at the time, but staff were warned of boys playing with fireworks and evacuated the building. It took 25 firemen to get the blaze under control. The fire damaged part of the ground floor and both repair and the opportunity for refurbishment meant that the centre was not reopened until May 2004 (see also 2018).

  6. 2005

    In 2005 Cornwall County Council continued its spree by opening a Leisure Centre in the port town of Penzance the most westerly major town of the county. Penzance Leisure Centre was provided with the County’s usual mix of pool, sports hall, fitness suite and outdoor pitches. The other UK location which, for unique reasons, had a slower start with new centres, until its wave of centres from the late 1970s and 1980s, was Northern Ireland. The Falls Leisure Centre in Belfast in 2005 sought in terms of design and purpose to better the architectural view of most of the earlier Northern Ireland centres – which were seen as grim, uninspired, defensive box-like structures with high level windows. The Victorian-era Falls Road Corporation Baths was destroyed by fire in 2002 and this provided the springboard for a modern, landmark centre. The Falls Leisure Centre was the first new leisure facility to open in Belfast since the 1980s. It was located along a so-called ‘Peace Line’ and sought to avoid another ‘bunker’ designed centre. However, the street level pool windows caused some local concerns, led to some vandalism and to changes to the windows. Vandalism then ceased.

    2005  K2 (see also the carousel of images below this section

    A significant landmark in centre planning and development was presented in 2005 by the arrival of K2 (K2– a major new leisure centre in Crawley, West Sussex). Crawley Sports Centre was an ageing town centre building with indoor and outdoor facilities. A swimming pool had opened in 1963 and the sport centre was a progression from there and by 1974 had a large sports hall with spectator seating and an outdoor athletics track. By the beginning of the 21st century Crawley, which had been seen as a new town, had grown from a population of 60,000 to 100,000. It became clear it needed new and extended sports facilities. Plans to transform Crawley’s secondary schools through a £70M PFI scheme opened up a partnership opportunity for West Sussex County Council & Crawley Borough Council to link leisure proposals to school sites. The K2 centre was planned over several years and developed out of town, on a free-standing site, adjacent to the Thomas Bennett school. It is close to the main A24 and bus and cycle links – and Gatwick Airport. It embodied a number of the key principles, changes and ideas that would follow in many other centres later. Innovative in its exterior and interior design and facility provision, it features a large open foyer with cafeteria and a 12-metre climbing wall in full view in the front entrance. From the foyer you can see into the pool hall. The Centre has a street-like appearance with wide corridors and almost shop windows to the various facilities. It has an 8-lane international size 50m pool with diving platform and moveable boom and floor, plus spectator seating for 350; a teaching pool and under-8s leisure water; specialist gymnastics hall; a 12-court sports hall – seating capacity 1400; 5 glass-back squash courts with spectator seating for 350; 150 station fitness gym; 2 aerobic/dance studios; martial arts room; 2 indoor bowling rinks; 5 treatment rooms; creche; and bar and cafeteria. Outdoors it has an 8-lane floodlit athletics stadium with seating for 450. The facilities are available to both the school, by designated times and facilities, and the community. K2 helped set a benchmark for the 21st century (K2 Reaching 2021)

    2005  Crook Log Leisure Centre

    In Kent the Pent Valley Leisure Centre costing £2.5m (£1.5m Lottery grant) was officially opened at Pent Valley Technology College in 2005 by Olympic athlete Colin Jackson and Paralympian Noel Thatcher. It provided a boost for disability sport through its programming and the Big Lottery also funded two full time posts for a Disability Sportslink Officer and a Community Officer. The centre offers a 4-badminton court sports hall, a dance studio, a 24-station fitness gym and a cafe. Chelmsford Borough Council opened South Woodham Ferrers Leisure Centre in 2005, with an official opening by Olympic Gold Medalist Duncan Goodhew. The swimming and sports facility development was aided by a £2m Lottery grant, support from the County Council, and from William de Ferrers School, which donated the land. 2005 saw Crook Log Leisure Centre open in the London Borough of Bexley, replacing an old pool across the road. Meanwhile in 2005, South Bedfordshire District Council completed the refurbishment of both Dunstable Park Leisure Centre and Tiddenfoot Leisure Centre in Leighton Buzzard. £1m was invested in Dunstable, upgrading the pool and all-weather pitch, expanding the fitness gym and also the dance studio.

2005:  View more pictures of K2 below, left to right, click to enlarge for captions.

2006-2010 New centres abound across the UK
  1. 2006

    2006  St. Peter’s Leisure Centre

    The £28m St. Peter’s Leisure Centre in Burnley opened in March 2006, as people queued in an unseasonal snow shower to get in! As another indication of the future direction for some other places, the Centre was designed as a state-of-the-art combined leisure and primary care facility of nearly 20,000 sq.m. and was jointly provided by Burnley Council and East Lancashire Primary Care Trust. The building boasts swimming pools, sports hall, a health suite, and gym facilities, squash court and creche. The primary care centre offers a wide range of services over nine floors. It was one of the first UK centres to start leading the way in housing a GP surgery. In 2008 a retaining wall for the building collapsed after heavy rain. Use was not affected but emergency works were required. The Centre was the first if its kind in the UK to be procured under The Local Improvement Finance Trust (LIFT was launched in 2001, as a vehicle for procuring public private partnerships, predominantly aimed at regenerating and improving facilities of primary and community healthcare in England). The developer was contracted to deliver facilities management services for 23 years. In 2009 the combined efforts of all those involved in running the Centre earned a Display Energy Certificate (DEC) for energy efficiency.

    2006  Wolverhampton Leisure Centre

    The 5,000 sq.m. £13m Wolverhampton Leisure Centre, one of the largest Midland centres at the time, opened to the public in December 2006. It was constructed by Carillion under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme and was funded by Barclays Bank and what was, at the time, DC Leisure Management Limited (subsequently taken over by Places for People Leisure). It will cost a total of £50m by the time it is paid off over 30 years. The Council started with an annual revenue payment of £700,000 to the operator. It also set a new precedent in a large-scale operational contract management with a minimum 32-year contract. The facilities provided were a free-form leisure pool with flume and wave machines, 6-lane traditional pool, plus studio pool with moveable floor; a 140-station gym, group training studio, soft play area and café. By June 2007 it had gained 3,100 members and was averaging 30,000 ‘pay and play’ visits each month.

    2006  The Aqualibrium Centre

    Rayleigh Leisure Centre was a £3M development in 2006 by Rochford District Council, which was one of the earliest Councils to outsource sports centre management in 1988 (see Chapter 8 – 8.2). Rayleigh boasts an impressive indoor bowls arena with four rinks as well as a fitness gym and sports hall. It is located on the High School site. Shipston-on-Stour’s Shipston Leisure Centre in Stratford-on-Avon district in south Warwickshire also opened in 2006. Another ex-Olympian, swimmer Sharron Davies MBE, officially opened the Centre. It cost £2.1m and is located at Shipston High School and replaced the old school swimming pool. It has a 5-lane 25m pool and health and fitness suite.  The Aqualibrium Centre in Campbeltown, costing £7m opened in 2006, the largest in one of Scotland’s unitary authorities, Argyll and Bute, and with an original and self-explanatory name. A 25m 6-lane pool, fitness gym, fitness studio, remedial suite with sauna and steam room, conference room and the Mussel Ebb Bistro. The town is a yachting base, so the Centre also has a dedicated yachtsman’s changing room. Outside there is a full-size 3G pitch divided into 7 a-side pitches. The building is also home to Campbeltown Library. In 2018 a joint sustainable energy project was initiated with a view to the facility being powered almost entirely by heat created from wastewater.

    2006  Elmbridge Xcel Leisure Centre

    In the middle of the first decade two new Centres, Elmbridge Xcel Leisure Centre in Walton-on-Thames, which opened in 2006 (and the K2 Leisure Centre – see 2005) set a new standard in the planning approach to the provision of a leisure centre. Elmbridge was used as an important case study by Sport England. Elmbridge is one of the largest Boroughs in Surrey, with a population of approximately 130,000. The original Elmbridge Leisure Centre was a ‘dry’ facility built in 1974. The total revenue cost of the Borough’s 3 facilities, which by the early 2000s were no longer considered fit for purpose, was a significant £650k per annum. Elmbridge decided upon the option of building a new state of the art combined wet and dry leisure facility on the site of the existing leisure centre, and to close the outdated Walton Swimming Pool, using the capital receipt from the sale of the Walton Pool land to offset some of the costs of the project.

    2006  Elmbridge Xcel Leisure Centre

    The project was funded from existing capital and the Council achieved the new state of the art facility within the £14m budget and reduced its overall revenue subsidy. The large centre embraced a swimming pool, learner pool with a moveable floor, an 8-court sports hall with spectator seating, squash courts, a fitness gym and exercise studios, indoor bowls, play area and creche, function room and café. Through the operational tender process, the Council transferred all of the risk, and the costs of the ongoing maintenance and lifecycle costs to the contractor. At the end of the contract the facility would be handed back to the authority in the same condition as the day it opened providing members with high level of security moving forwards. Alongside its Wolverhampton arrangements at the time, DC Leisure undertook a design, build and operate contract for 15 years. Attendances exceeded 1m per annum and participation increased by 300% over the previous facilities.

    2006  Mile End Leisure Centre

    The London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ Mile End Leisure Centre opened in 2006 and was used for training by Olympic teams for London 2012. It is sited in Mile End Park, (the Park opened in 1999). The Centre has two swimming pools, a sports hall, a gym, an athletics track, hockey pitch, tennis courts and the Tom Daley Diving Academy.

    2006  Mile End Leisure Centre

  2. 2007

    In 2007 Kirkintilloch Leisure Centre in East Dunbartonshire opened in July. Costing £8.6m it provides two swimming pools, a 4-court sports hall, fitness suite, conference & meeting rooms, bistro and outdoors four 3G 5-aside pitches and two tennis courts. Set in Woodhead Park the Centre has helped regenerate the surrounding parkland and created a new children’s playground. It was designed in consultation with the community. Breckland Council’s Dereham Leisure Centre was officially opened in May 2007. In keeping with many other centres, it was opened by an Olympian, in this case, yet again, by swimmer Sharron Davies MBE. Dereham offers a 25m swimming pool, sports hall, 55 station fitness gym, indoor bowling hall and cafe. In its first decade it recorded 3 million visits, including 1.5m swims. A large development on a school site in 2007 was the sports centre built by the Birmingham Diocesan Schools Commission at St Gregory the Great School in Oxford. At a capital cost of £14.5m the centre is available for hire and includes a 4-court sports hall, dance studio, gym, sports classroom and outdoor artificial turf pitch.

    2007 Kirkby Leisure Centre

    In the 1970s Killingworth Sports Centre was a leading facility in the north-east. It was part of the new town’s Communicare development, which was demolished in 2007, the same year as a new £9.5m building, Lakeside Leisure Centre, arrived. Lakeside has a footprint of 3,000m2 and the standard mix of two pools (25m and learner), sports hall (6-court in this case), health & fitness suite, dance studio, soft play and cafe. The building design separates wet and dry provision with a dramatic double height foyer which bisects the building with the entrance at one end and an open lakeside terrace at the other. The building is a landmark on the main approach road to the township. The Craig MacLean Leisure Centre in Grantown on Spey, named after the Olympic cyclist, was designed to focus on sustainability and energy efficiency. It is located in the Cairngorms National Park and adjacent to the Grammar School. The Centre provides the community with a swimming pool, sports hall, fitness gym and café. It is also popular with tourists.

    2007 Longwell Green Leisure Centre

    Knowsley Council’s £12m Kirkby Leisure Centre opened in 2007 and started a drive to provide new facilities aimed at replacing Knowsley’s old buildings. The new centre replaced the old Kirkby Pool (1970). The centre not only provided swimming pools, sports hall and fitness gym but also a floodlit ATP and athletics track. Longwell Green Leisure Centre in Bristol (£5.3M), also opened in 2007, provided by South Gloucestershire Council, had similar indoor facilities. Downham Health and Leisure Centre in the Borough of Lewisham, in the south-east of London, opened in 2007. It cost £12.7m and was a PFI contract for 32 years, involving the Borough, Barclays Bank, PFI specialist Linteum, and Leisure Connection. Its name reflects the increasing trend in centres to offer locals a ‘joined-up approach’ to community well-being with not only leisure but also health, library and other community related services. Besides the library it includes all the usual recreation facilities (pools, fitness suite, sports hall, activity studios and café), and also houses two GP surgeries and a dental practice.

    2007 Dolphin Leisure Centre

    Enfield Leisure Services opened Edmonton Leisure Centre in 2007 after the old Edmonton Centre closed earlier that year. The Centre is a large, multi-purpose building with facilities including a fitness gym, exercise studio, spinning area, pools, flumes, sports hall, play centre and crèche. It was not devoid of problems at the start as the operating trust for Enfield Council, Enfield Leisure Centres Limited, went into voluntary liquidation after 5 years, as the Centre was preparing to open. In addition, as can happen in a community, there was some disquiet about the reduction from the 8 lanes in the old pool to 6 lanes and the lack of diving boards in the new centre. The centre is now operated by Fusion Lifestyles.

    Refurbishment projects in 2007 included Chelsea Sports Centre (work valued at £700,000) and a major exercise in significantly revamping Darlington’s Dolphin Leisure Centre, which had been originally opened in 1982 by Sir Roger Bannister. In 1994 the Centre had won the Sports Council’s National Management Award and in 2000 was awarded ISO 9002 accreditation. The Stour Centre in Ashford, first opened in 1975. It closed in 2005 for an 18-month £17m refurbishment., re-opening in the summer of 2007.

    The exterior of the Stour Centre after it’s refurbishment and imminent opening on the 15th September 2007. Image taken 11th September 2007.

  3. 2008

    2008 Xcel Leisure Centre Coventry


    Opened in 2008, Xcel Leisure Centre is a sports and leisure centre in Coventry and is managed by CV Life. It replicates the name given to Elmbridge LC in Walton-on-Thames. Situated in the south-west of Coventry, Xcel replaced the Midland Sports Centre. The Leisure Centre serves as the head office for Coventry Sports Foundation, now operating as CV Life. The Centre’s facilities are based around a swimming pool and modern fitness gym. 2008 was a busy year for progress in Watford with a new centre and refurbishment of another costing £23m in total. Woodside Leisure Centre in Watford opened in June, having been built on time and to budget and designed with a strong sustainability agenda. This included an extended ground source heat pump system using boreholes 100m deep, roof solar panels and rainwater recycling. £21m funding came from Watford Borough Council and £2m from Three Rivers Council as many residents can use the facility. As well as a 25m pool with moveable floor, 8-badminton court sports hall, with seating for 200, and 3 dance studios, the Centre boasts 4 squash courts, a sauna, function room, a creche and café. Based on the former Watford Central Baths, Watford Leisure Centre – Central opened in August. The facility boasts a six-lane swimming pool and learner pool, a 4-court sports hall, as well as a 60-station gym and a dance studio and also features a new climbing wall, a café, crèche. [A further £18m refurbishment of the 2 centres was undertaken in 2018 with the official re-opening ribbon-cutting ceremonies being undertaken respectively by Olympian Colin Jackson and former Watford FC star John Barnes). Both centres are currently managed by Everyone Active.

    2008 Freeman’s Quay Leisure Centre

    Some new centres continue to replace old swimming pools. This was the case in Durham where the new Freeman’s Quay Leisure Centre was opened by Durham County Council, replacing the Durham City pool at Elvet. Costing £12.5m, the centre sits alongside Durham Sixth Form Centre, which has weekday, daytime access to the Centre. The facilities provide for swimming, fitness and sport. Sidcup Leisure Centre opened in March 2008 with a standard mix of pools, fitness gym, sports hall and dance studio. Neighbouring Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School had first call on weekday use of the sports hall.

    2008 Stafford Leisure Centre

    Stafford’s Riverside Recreation Centre was replaced by the new £15m Stafford Leisure Centre in Lammascote Road in April 2008. The Centre was built by a development company, which had plans for a £100M mixed-use development project. Riverside was demolished as the new complex opened. The Centre boasts an impressive eight lane 25-metre swimming pool and a teaching pool with state-of-the-art movable floor. Other facilities include a private studio, gym circuit, individual fitness studio, squash courts and a four-court sports hall. A training suite is available for room hire and courses. The Grove Wellbeing Centre in Belfast cost £22m and opened in May 2008. It was one of the first UK centres to carry the ‘Wellbeing’ nomenclature. A partnership between Belfast Education and Library Board, Belfast City Council and Belfast Health Trust it represented the biggest City investment since the Waterfront Hall in 1997. The leisure facilities embrace a 25m pool, toddler pool, and a 70-station fitness gym. The Centre is home to eight GPs, physiotherapy, facilities for older people and a full library service.

    2008  The Grove Wellbeing Centre, Belfast

    Three times in its lifetime the leisure centre in Swansea has been a significant part of the UK sports and leisure centre story – for good and not so good! The first Swansea Leisure Centre was officially opened in 1977 by Her Majesty the Queen. The original centre featured the first wave machine to be installed in Wales. The Centre became one of Wales’ top leisure facilities and a substantial tourist draw, attracting more than 800,000 users annually at its peak. However, it was in the leisure headlines a second time in 2003. It was a huge surprise when it was announced the centre was to close temporarily to undergo a survey following safety concerns about its condition. However, it turned into a political, leisure building and management nightmare. The survey revealed things were a lot worse than had originally been feared and concluded it would need up to £14M in repairs. Details from a consultant’s report revealed a catalogue of problems which highlighted extremely hazardous dangers. Not surprisingly, later in the year, it was announced that the Centre would close for good. In 2004 a new Council coalition administration took the brave decision to overhaul the existing leisure centre building with a massive £32M external and internal refurbishment. The building’s exterior was revitalised by replacing the old concrete panels with clear glass, translucent glazing, and timber paneling. The work was largely complete by the end of 2007, setting the scene for the Swansea centre to take ‘centre stage’ in the leisure media for the third time. The centre was renamed as LC2 and was reopened, again by the Queen, on 7 March 2008. [The “LC2” logo was designed to be intentionally ambiguous, with the ‘2’ implying the relaunch of the old Centre). The LC’s new features include water slides, surf simulator, a 30 ft climbing wall, an indoor play area, a multi-purpose sports and exhibition hall exercise areas, and a spa and sauna section.

    2008 Sunderland Aquatic Centre

    In 2008 the new Sunderland Aquatic Centre opened with a 50-metre pool, diving tank and Wellness Centre, adjacent to Sunderland FC’s Stadium of Light. This was a significant prelude to the later closure in October 2011 of Sunderland’s Crowtree Leisure Centre (1977), which was, at the time, the largest indoor public leisure centre in Europe. 2008 saw Wentworth Leisure Centre in Hexham (which opened in 1986 with an indoor bowls centre, a sports hall and children’s activity area) have a £10M extension and refurbishment, providing a 25m 6-lane pool, 15m studio pool, and reception area and café. The bowls hall was lost in the re-development. [Later in 2019, a further £700,000 project saw a new state-of-the-art gym and a redesign of café and reception area].

    2008 The Oval Sports Centre

    The Oval Sports Centre, in Bebington on the Wirral, well-known for its indoor and outdoor facilities, including an athletics stadium, had a phased £2.4m complete revamp in 2008, plus the addition of eight new outdoor 5-a-side pitches. It is also famous for its appearance in the film ‘Chariots of Fire’ (see Chapter 2: 2.15 – link). The sports hall at Didcot Leisure Centre (1985) was also refurbished in 2008. Horsham District Council, as recorded earlier, had a strong record in working with schools to create dual-use or joint provision centres. In 2008 a new 4-lane 25m pool and 50-station fitness suite was added to the dual-use Weald Recreation Centre in Billingshurst. This increased the number of pools in the district to three. It had a £680,000 National Lottery grant in a partnership between the District Council, Billingshurst Parish Council, The Weald School, West Sussex County Council and Sport England.

2008:  View pictures below of Swansea’s LC2 and the Wentworth Leisure Centre, left to right, click to enlarge for captions.

  1. 2009

    The Stockton Splash (2001) story continued in 2009, undergoing huge refurbishments during 2008-9, doubling it in size. It received a Lottery grant of £2.45m and funding from Sport England. It reopened in 2009 and Splash became much more than just a leisure pool, offering a 2-storey Activ8 gym, fitness class studios, large multi-use sports hall, to go with the wave machines, flumes, Jacuzzi and cafe. It was re-developed as a modern and spacious leisure facility, offering a range of sporting, fitness and leisure activities for all ages and abilities. Some twenty years or so after the first sports centre opened in Evesham, a new successor, the £11m Evesham Leisure Centre opened in 2009 after two years construction. It was the biggest ever investment by Wychavon District Council. It offered a 25m pool, learner pool with moveable floor, 4-court sports hall, fitness gym with 100 stations with touch screen technology, a health suite with spa pools and dance studios. Significant additions, compared to the original centre, included a multi-coloured climbing wall and Café Rivers. A special effort was made to consult relevant local groups in designing the centre to best suit various disabilities. (In 2019, in keeping with a growing trend for larger gyms for membership income and to compete with private clubs, a new £3M extension to the Centre for health and well-being was opened by Paralympian Rebecca Redfern. The centre then embraced an extended fitness gym, two new studios with sprung floors, therapy treatment room and meeting rooms).

    2009 Spiceball Leisure Centre

    Haverfordwest Leisure Centre, a flagship Pembrokeshire development, opened its doors for the first time in March 2009. Built at a cost of £8M, it provides an 8-lane 25m pool with an adjoining learner pool and seating for 350, plus 4-court sports hall, dance studio and a two -storey health & fitness suite. It was built on the site of the former County Council and National Park Authority offices. The £17M Spiceball Leisure Centre in Banbury opened in December 2009, replacing an old centre as part of a £27M Cherwell DC project to improve its three centres. The naming of centres can be intriguing. In the case of Spiceball, the building land was owned by a butcher known for his spicy meatballs!

    2009 The Mountbatten Centre

    The Mountbatten Centre, Portsmouth, set in an attractive park adjacent to the City’s north shore, opened in 1979. It was a major indoor and outdoor centre development for the City, offering a 50m 8-lane pool with a moveable floor and submersible boom to create two 25m pools, a 12.5m teaching pool and a 200-seat viewing area. A 150-station gym was included together with a sports hall and a range of outdoor facilities, including athletics track and cycling track. In 2009 the Centre was substantially refurbished as part of a city-wide £25M PPP scheme, £5m of which was funded by a Sport England grant. A new sprung floor was installed in the sports hall, a dance studio, function room and club rooms were added and the athletic and cycling tracks were resurfaced. A new entrance, reception area and a refurbished café were also provided. To help fund the project the Victoria Leisure Centre was closed. The Centre had a Royal opening originally in 1983, and again, for the re-opening by Princess Anne in 2009.

    2009 Victoria Leisure Centre

    The concept, or at least the title, of ‘Sports Village’ has occasionally been adopted more recently for centres that embrace a wide range of indoor and outdoor facilities and are usually large-scale developments. This is reminiscent of some early sports centres which sought to do this – Harlow, Bracknell and Gosling for example (see Chapter 2). Two Scottish ‘Sports Villages’ that had opened by 2009 are Stirling Sports Village and Aberdeen Sports Village. At £27.3M Stirling Sports Village is the Council’s biggest single development investment in 30 years. The new indoor complex, ‘The PEAK’, includes an ice rink and swimming pool, with excess heat from the ice-making process being fed back into the pool. It was expected to create 90 jobs. It was a joint venture by Stirling Council and SportScotland. The Aberdeen Village 1st phase cost was £28m, and was a joint venture between the City Council, the University of Aberdeen and SportScotland and it was officially opened in 2009 by ex-footballer Denis Law. It includes a 6-lane 25m swimming pool, 135m indoor running track, an immense sports hall, a 100-station gym, a full-size indoor football pitch, and The Chris Anderson Stadium comprising a 400m athletics track and field facilities, plus outdoor football and hockey pitches. (A second £18.2M phase completed in 2014 added a new Aquatics Centre).

    2009 Aberdeen Sports Village

    Catterick Leisure Centre opened at Catterick Garrison in July 2009. It was designed to fit both military and public use and included a new Garrison Rehabilitation Unit. The design, site development and programme of use required careful planning to fit with all military, security and terrorism requirements, whilst facilitating public use. It has been highly successfully in fulfilling this dual role and has become an integral part of the local community. It provides a main 25m swimming pool, training pool, learner pool, 6-court sports hall, large 42-station fitness gym, very large dance/multi-use studio together with meeting room and first class-disabled access and changing facilities. It was the first dual-role MOD centre to be advised by a professional sports & leisure consultant from the original facility ideas through to operational planning, equipping, recruitment of a management contractor and official opening. It is managed by Nuffield Health and gained Quest accreditation in 2011, being awarded Highly Commended.

    2009 The Triangle Leisure Centre

    As we have recorded in Chapter 8 (see 8.1.10 UK Examples link), Haverhill Sports Centre in Suffolk (1971) was amongst the early pioneering joint-provision centres. In 2009, renamed Haverhill Leisure Centre, it re-opened following a £5.2M refurbishment. In 2009 necessary urgent repairs were part of a refurbishment of the Triangle Leisure Centre in Burgess Hill (originally opened in 1999 by Her Majesty the Queen). This included a costly roof replacement.

    Another example, this time in 2009, of a significant school-based leisure centre investment was at Newport High School in Bettws. The £28 million Newport Active Living Centre provides facilities in the form of a 25m four lane swimming pool, a gym, a dance studio, four badminton courts, indoor cricket nets, a meeting room, and a swimming pool. Outdoors there is also a floodlit astroturf pitch, a multi-use games area, and outdoor tennis and netball courts.

2009:  View pictures below of Catterick Leisure Centre, left to right, click to enlarge for captions.

  1. 2010

    2010 Bletchley Leisure Centre

    The Leisure Centre in Bletchley was an iconic building and had set a new benchmark in UK sports and leisure centres when it opened in 1974 with a broad range of facilities and one of the first UK leisure pools. It could rightly claim to be the UK’s first true ‘leisure centre’ [See Chapter 6 – 6.3.2: ‘Early days at the Centre’ link]. In 2010, after four years of consultations, a new £18M Bletchley

    2010 Bletchley Leisure Centre

    Leisure Centre replaced the original as part of a comprehensive ‘Building a Better Bletchley’ regeneration scheme. It was accepted that the original centre was becoming increasingly obsolete in terms of the facilities it offered. The new centre has a traditional 8-lane swimming pool instead of a leisure pool, and many other facilities (see Bletchley – Concept to Completion).

    Farnham Leisure Centre first opened in 1981 with a 6-lane pool and sports hall. As we have recorded in a previous Chapter, Farnham Council then sold its centre plans to Surrey Heath Council for the development of the Arena Centre in Camberley. In 2010 Farnham had a 2-storey extension built at the front of the centre, including a glass front that allows the public a view of the gym.

    2010 Farnham Leisure Centre

    The refurbishment cost £5M and was the Council’s first refurbishment project. The Centre was re-opened by Jeremy Hunt MP for South West Surrey. It had a new 90-station gym, enlarged reception and revamped swimming pools. As part of the work £5,000 was spent on extending the main pool by 4 centimetres – the Amateur Swimming Association had discovered it was just short of the regulation 25m for competition use, taking account of fitted timing devices which had been added after the pool had originally opened.



    2010 Blaydon Leisure & Primary Care Centre

    The North-East, always a hot bed for centre provision from the earliest days of the 1960s, saw Gateshead Borough Council commence 4 major centre schemes for around £40M, two of which opened in 2010. The new £18M Blaydon Leisure & Primary Care Centre was developed jointly by Gateshead Council and NHS Tyne and Wear and opened in 2010. The Primary Care Centre includes a wide range of medical services including dental, podiatry, mental health and physiotherapy, plus a GP practice and a walk-in minor injury and illness unit. Leisure facilities include a 6-lane 25m pool, learner pool and gym.

    2010 Heworth Leisure Centre

    The Council also opened the new Heworth Leisure Centre (£29m) later the same year, which replaced Felling Pool. The new facilities included a ‘Flowrider’, the North East’s first indoor surfing facility, as well as a 4-lane swimming pool, learner pool and toddler pool and a 200sq.m. fitness gym. The £13m Darwen Leisure Centre was opened in 2010 by Princess Anne. It was finished on time and on budget. The three-storey complex in Lancashire has a 25m 8-lane swimming pool with a moveable floor so it can be used for competitions. The pools have materials fitted to aid acoustics – loud noises are dulled and low frequencies are carried, so swimming teachers do not need to shout! It also has a teaching pool, a main gym, a multi-purpose fitness studio, a multi-use sports hall and activity rooms. The Centre supports the regeneration of the town’s centre.

    2010 The Meridian Leisure Centre

    The Meridian Leisure Centre in the small market town of Louth in Lincolnshire is the jewel in East Lindsey Council’s crown. Significantly it employs 60 full or part-time staff and achieved 4 million visitors in its first decade. The capital cost was £12M. It has answered its fierce critics, who argued against the development because of its green space location but failed in a judicial review. It has a 25m competition eight-lane pool with moveable floor, fitness suite, sauna and steam room, leisure pool with pirate ship and flume, 4 court sports hall, Dance Studio, Cycle Studio, exhibition space and multi-use games area, cafe and social area. Three Scottish centres opened in 2010. The South Lanarkshire Council £3.5M Alistair McCoist Complex in East Kilbride, named after the Scottish footballer, has two large sports halls and an outdoor 5-aside pitch. Scotstoun Sports Campus is a large Glasgow complex. It is built on land first developed in 1900 by the Glasgow Agricultural Society as a showground, followed by the addition of a running track in 1915. It was then developed as a sports training venue. In 2003 a National Badminton Centre (£3.5M) was added to the site. A Glasgow Council £17.6M project to develop the site further came to fruition in 2010 with the Scotstoun Sports Complex. It was opened by the Princess Royal. The campus includes Scotland’s first tennis centre, all-weather athletics and field event facilities, a rugby centre of excellence and new grandstands to seat 9,700. The public leisure facilities include a 25m pool, fitness gym and health suite, full-size floodlit synthetic pitch, four 7-a-side synthetic pitches, three outdoor tennis courts, a 10-court sports hall, physiotherapy facilities, sports rooms and café. (In 2013 the 6-court Scotstoun Squash Centre opened. Scotstoun Sports Complex provided one of the venues for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014).

    2010 Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility

    Another major beacon for Scottish leisure came in September 2010 when the Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility opened in Motherwell. It was the biggest rebuilding project ever to take place in Scotland and personifies local authority thinking on the breadth, scale and quality of local authority provision. It is the plan which no-one in the town ever wanted to see, because most believed that the steelworks, closed in 1994, should have remained open and retained employment. Locals considered it still had a viable future. The £31.3M landmark project is a joint funding venture between North Lanarkshire Council (£19m) Sport Scotland (£6m), Ravenscraig Ltd (£7m) and Motherwell College.

    2010 Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility

    The centre is an interesting design. The 18,300m2 total floor space is based around a central spine to which 3 large-span structures create the football and sports hall with 400 spectator seats, athletics hall with track and field event training areas, conditioning area and dance studio and cafe. The roof changes its height dependent on requirements and the building uses low-carbon technology and low-energy design. Outside there is a full-size 3G floodlit football pitch, 7-a-side and 5-a-side pitches. North Lanarkshire Council has a population of 339,960. Besides the Ravenscraig facility, it provides in total 13 sports halls and 8 swimming pools, including the Sir Matt Busby Sports Complex (1999) Airdrie Leisure Centre (2009), and Wishaw Sports Centre.

    2010 Brixton Recreation Centre

    Brixton Recreation Centre was originally designed in 1970 but did not open until 1985 and has always been an important London centre. It is located in the heart of Brixton and is owned by the London Borough of Lambeth. It is a 6-storey building, where the staircases certainly presented early management issues with the behaviour of young spectator visitors. Its changing room configurations were not ideal, and improvements were an important part of a 2010 refurbishment costing £662,000. It was funded by the Council and Sport England’s Free Swimming Capital Modernisation Fund. The rest of the facilities were kept in use during the works. Re-opened in 2010 after a £3.5M facelift was East Staffordshire Borough Council’s Meadowside Leisure Centre in Burton-on-Trent. New facilities included a new entrance, foyer, and cafe area, fitness centre and a multi-purpose studio. A new ‘village’ style pool changing area was also created.

    2010 Kentish Town – Pool

    The Kentish Town Sports Centre, in the London Borough of Camden, re-opened in July 2010 following a comprehensive £25.2M redevelopment of the Grade II-listed Victorian building that has served the area since 1901. Facilities at the new Centre include three swimming pools (a restored 33m pool, a new 25m pool; and a learner pool), a 90-station health and fitness club, a Kinesis area, a Power Plate zone, a large group exercise studio and a Wii Fit interactive zone. Work also included the refurbishment of the centre’s heritage features – such as the main Willes pool roof and façade – and the creation of a new café.

    2010 Kentish Town gym

    Hillingdon Sports and Leisure Complex in Uxbridge is owned by Hillingdon Borough Council. It is centred on another Grade II Listed facility site, Uxbridge Lido, built in 1935 and the second longest open-air pool in London. In 2010 a newly built centre and refurbished indoor pool opened, as well as the lido pool. At the same time the nearby Hillingdon House Farm athletics track was refurbished to become part of the complex.

2011-2015 Major replacements and improvements continue
  1. 2011

    2011 saw many new centres opened or refurbishments completed. An increasing number of centres which had opened close to or since 2000 undertook extensions or refurbishments to keep up with trends and customer expectations (particularly for larger fitness suites, which are crucial to income). This included Arc Leisure Matlock, which was opened in August 2011 for Derbyshire Dales Council

    by Lord Sebastian Coe. Features included an 8-lane swimming pool with moveable floor, a toddler pool, a 50-station fitness suite and a sports hall. Built on reclaimed land between Darley Dale and Matlock it cost £12m. It was the largest single investment by the Council, replacing Matlock Lido after its 73-year life! The Becontree Heath Leisure Centre, opened in May 2011, replaced Wood Lane Sports Centre, just 200 yards away, and Dagenham Swimming Pool both of which were reaching the end of their effective life. The £23M centre has the usual combination of ‘wet and ‘dry’ facilities, and a ‘Jolly Jungle’ soft play area. It has achieved a sustained increase in local participation.

    2011 Oswestry Leisure Centre

    The new Oswestry Leisure Centre in Shropshire was delayed for 7 months when the original contractors went into liquidation. It opened in late 2011. The original budget of £6m was inevitably exceeded, with the final cost being £10.4M. It provides a 25m pool and a teaching pool as well as a 6-court sports hall and fitness gym.

    The Duke of Kent opened the extensively refurbished Mole Valley District Council Leatherhead Leisure Centre in March 2011. It was delivered on time and on budget over a period of 20 months at a cost of £12.6M. The Centre had made its mark on recreation management when it opened in the 1970s, the first manager being Roger Quinton.

    2011 Knowsley Leisure and Culture Park

    Knowsley Leisure and Culture Park arrived in 2011. It was a new £16.1M multi-purpose complex in Huyton, Merseyside, featuring two swimming pools, a 6-court sports hall, fitness suite with 120 stations, squash courts, dance studios, a 400m outdoor velodrome with a BMX track. The project sits against the backcloth of the previous closure of three old 1970s swimming pools that were battling multi-million-pound repairs. (Knowsley’s £12m Kirkby Leisure Centre had opened in 2007).

    Wolverhampton’s £18.6M Bert Williams Leisure Centre was officially opened in Bilston in December 2011 in the presence of the local Bert Williams MBE, the famous Wolves and England goalkeeper who played in the 1950 World Cup. This was the second major centre to be developed by the Council following Wolverhampton LC in 2006. The Bert Williams LC has the traditional mix of facilities – a 25m pool, sports hall, squash courts, health & fitness suite, dance studio and creche.

    2011 Bert Williams Leisure Centre

    The Catmose Campus, a mixed sport, leisure and educational development, was planned and developed in 2011 by the smallest unitary authority in the UK – Rutland County Council. It took five years to bring to fruition and started when the Council applied to become a ‘Building Schools One School Pathfinder Project’. The £28M new-build community campus forms a vibrant urban edge to the market town of Oakham, the County’s largest. The Academy status Catmose College occupies 95% of the site. Under BSF and with additional Sport England funds, Catmose Sports Centre was also built on the campus to create a community hub environment. It has an 8-badminton court community sports hall, first floor gym and two activity studios. The campus was awarded an “Excellent” rating in CABE’s School Design Review.

    Leventhorpe Leisure Centre, in Sawbridgeworth, stands out as an exceptional school-led project (see photos below). Conceived originally by Leventhorpe School, then a Foundation School, the Centre (1500m2) opened in 2011 at a cost of £6M. The official opening ceremony was performed by ex-Tottenham and Manchester United footballer, Teddy Sheringham MBE. The facilities were planned on the basis of a dual-use policy for school and community. It has an interesting design, placed at the rear of the main school building, adjacent to the playing fields. The Centre has a sports hall (37m x 21m) a multi-purpose Studio, a 40-station gym and outdoors a full-size AstroTurf pitch and tennis courts. An upper section is a timber wrap-around ‘pavilion’ to the west end of the building, with a verandah overlooking the all-weather pitch and playing fields. The school was advised throughout by a specialist consultant to: – guide it through Sport England approval to build on part of the large playing field; to advise on fully equipping the centre; and plan operational management arrangements, including tendering for an operator (Bladerunner was appointed, but that year became part of Nuffield Health, which is still operating the Centre in 2021). An unusual situation exists where East Herts Council’s Leventhorpe Pool and Gym is immediately adjacent to the school, virtually on the campus, and that Centre is managed by the East Herts contractor, a different trust. Leventhorpe School became an Academy in 2011.

    2011 XC Hemel Hempstead

    XC Hemel Hempstead opened in 2011 after a design and build programme costing £5.25M and broke the traditional mould of a public recreation centre with the aim of creating a one-stop shop for teenagers in particular. The building is of modern iconic design reflecting the nature of the facilities. It was eagerly awaited by climbers, skateboarders and BMX enthusiasts. Its cost was funded by £5m from the Government’s ‘Myplace’ programme and £250k from Sportspace the Dacorum Sports Trust which manages XC in partnership with Youth Connexions (prior to 2018 the Trust managed Dacorum Council’s centres). The unusual client for this extreme sports centre was St. Paul’s Hammersmith Parochial Church Council. XC provides an impressive extreme sports skate park; a 60m x 15m climbing wall, catering for beginners through to advanced and competition; an indoor caving system (152 linear metres); and bouldering and high ropes. (‘My Place’ was a grant scheme launched in April 2008. Following 3 competitive bidding rounds, a total of 63 capital grants of between £1 million and £5 million were awarded for the development of world-class youth centres in some of the most deprived areas of England).

    Another Listed building, the Grade II Victorian pool building in Camberwell, originally built in 1891, reopened in 2011 as Camberwell Leisure Centre. The original 38m pool was used to create a 25m pool and a learner pool. It involved very careful work and extensive replacement of ageing pipe work and the plant room. (A further final phase was completed later in 2012/13, including the refurbishment of the Warwick and Jubilee Halls). Reigate and Banstead Council’s Donyngs Leisure Centre was refurbished, including a new fitness gym for £3.4M.

    2011 Camberwell Leisure Centre

    2011 Camberwell Leisure Centre

    The refurbishment of Gateshead Leisure Centre, and redevelopment of Dunston Leisure Centre in 2011 completed the Gateshead Council investment scheme started in 2010.

2011:  View pictures below of Leventhorpe Leisure Centre, left to right, click to enlarge for captions.

  1. 2012

    2012 started with Reigate and Banstead Council’s £9M Horley Leisure Centre opening on January 9th. The new centre replaced the ageing Horley Anderson Centre, which closed on the 8th. Ramped access to the 25m pool for disabled users was a new pool feature, alongside a teaching pool, 45 station fitness gym, 4-court sports hall and an exercise and dance studio. Disabled use was clearly central to the design with ramps and lifts, high visibility signage, with captions in Braille, a hearing loop system and tactile paving around the outside of the Centre. Energy conservation was paramount, and a wide range of new technologies were integrated into the Centre.

    2012 Clapham Leisure Centre

    Clapham Leisure Centre, the first new public leisure centre to open in the London Borough of Lambeth for 30 years, also welcomed the public in January and formed part of a wider regeneration strategy – ‘Clapham One’, which included a new library and residential developments. It replaced a 1920 complex. To reflect the roof of the previous centre an elegant barrel-vaulted roof was introduced to the main pool hall. The Centre provides a 6-lane 25m pool, with boom and moveable floor, a secondary pool, spectator seating, a 4-court sports hall, a 100-station fitness suite, exercise studios, junior climbing wall and café. The availability of good range of public transport makes the Centre highly accessible. Abraham Darby Leisure Centre was the first in a series of new build leisure facilities by Telford and Wrekin Council. It was built adjacent to the school of the same name and opened in February 2012 with the expected mix of pool with moveable floor, sports hall, health & fitness suite and aerobics studio.

    2012 Bolton One

    A £30M health, leisure and research centre, Bolton One, opened in February 2012. The Centre incorporates a swimming pool with spectator seating for 250, a fitness suite, an NHS doctor’s surgery and outpatient centre, and the University of Bolton’s Centre of Excellence for Health and Wellbeing. It was the culmination of 5 years on the drawing board. It was named as the Jason Kenny Centre after the cycling Olympic gold medalist. Following on from its refurbishment of Farnham LC in 2010, Waverley Council opened the new Godalming Leisure Centre in 2012. The plan for the centre had been part of the Council’s strategic review of its leisure portfolio in 2009. A £5M design and build project, it replaced the original centre. The building has a 1743m2 footprint and provides a 6-lane 25m pool and learner pool, 60 station fitness suite, a dance studio and cafe. The design was important to the streetscape, so the building was kept back from the road and the 2-storey element placed to the rear. From the street only the gym ‘box’ can be seen, and that through glazing, emphasised by the copper pool hall roof which also acts as a canopy wrapping the fitness suite. The building was completed in 52 weeks. Usage has exceeded expectations.

    2012 Jason Kenny Centre

    March saw the adventurous and huge development of Plymouth City Council’s £46.5M Plymouth Life Centre open in the City’s Central Park. It benefited from a £2M investment from Sport England’s Place People Play legacy programme, and also from partnerships with several governing bodies. It brought world class facilities to the South West. Its facilities include a family leisure pool, a 10-lane 50m pool and diving pool, both to Olympic standard, a sauna, steam room, a multi-purpose area for dance and martial arts, an eight-rink indoor bowling green, a 12-court sports hall – the only one in Devon – and a climbing wall. It was used as a training camp by the Canadian diving and Lithuanian swimming teams for the 2012 London Olympics.

    2012 Plymouth Life Centre

    2012 Plymouth Life Centre

    2012 Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre

    The Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre in St. Albans opened in November 2012. The Centre set a high standard in its range of community leisure provision. Swimming facilities include a 10-lane 25m pool, a training pool and a confidence splash pool for toddlers. Also included is a 4-court sports hall, a climbing wall, 2 studios, a 200-station fitness suite including a spinning studio and youth gym, high quality spa, treatment rooms and bistro. Westminster Lodge replaced a 1970s centre.

    2012 Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre

    Hengrove Park Leisure Centre formed part of a PFI led regeneration strategy in the south of Bristol. It gave the City its first Olympic standard 50m pool, plus a 20m x 10m teaching and training pool. A 4-court sports hall, fitness suite, studios and climbing wall were also included. It cost £35M and was recorded as the first leisure centre in the UK to get a BREEM sustainability excellent rating. In 2012 Victoria Leisure Centre opened in Nottingham. The ambitious £9M project undertook wide public consultation and bravely sought to marry old and new, retaining as part of the new centre some old features from the previous historic Victoria Baths, in particular the clock tower. The Turkish Baths built on the site in 1928 remained redundant and the Council subsequently took the decision to demolish them. The revamped centre seeks to serve the residents of St. Anns, Sneinton and the surrounding area and complements the Sneinton Square development. The Centre includes a 25m pool with a separate teaching pool and a children’s splash play area, a 70-station gym, fitness studio and health suite with sauna and steam rooms plus café. (Historical note: The Victoria Baths were the oldest and first swimming pools in Nottingham and opened their doors to the public in 1850 on the site of the new Victoria Leisure Centre. In those days the establishment consisted of 24 washing tubs with suitable drying stores. six private baths and two large open tepid baths, one for men and the other for women. Many cities and towns inherited Victorian baths houses, most now demolished and a few still being partly refurbished, modernised and extended. They remain part of the country’s swimming pool heritage).

    2012 Orford Jubilee Park

    Orford Jubilee Park in Warrington was completed in 2012 at a cost of £28M. The 25-year life cycle costs were to be met from the ‘Community Investment Fund’. It was opened by Her Majesty the Queen. It was claimed to be the biggest ‘Olympic legacy’ site outside London and the first example of a ‘sustainable community sports hub’. The project was developed through a unique partnership of over twenty national, regional and local funding partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors. It aimed to create an innovative new ‘hub’ for public services that would act as a catalyst for the social, physical and economic regeneration for some of the most deprived wards in the town.

    2012 Orford Jubilee Park

    The facilities are – 4-court sports hall, a regional competition 25m 8-lane pool, 15x9m learner pool, 90-station fitness suite, exercise studio, two squash courts, conference/meeting room and 52-seat atrium café. The leisure complex is adjacent to a GP medical centre.

    2012 Sun Lane Leisure Centre

    Sun Lane Leisure Centre in Wakefield was commissioned to replace the Sun Lane Baths and the Light Waves swimming centre. The Centre cost £9M and serves a multi-cultural community and has the usual range of wet and dry facilities. The learner pool (13x7m) is a particularly flexible asset having a moveable floor. There is a large Muslim population so changing accommodation and close pool access has been carefully planned to facilitate use, with motorised blinds and privacy screens installed. In 2012 Gosport Leisure Centre replaced the 1970s Holbrook Recreation Centre, which had a pool and squash courts. Costing £7.3M, the new centre was constructed near an existing ice rink to form the Gosport Leisure Park. It has a standard mix of a 6-lane 25m pool, 12x8m learner pool, 4-court sports hall and 55 station fitness suite with assessment room and exercise/dance studio and creche/soft play. The building has a secondary reception desk for outdoor pitch bookings.

    2012 Sun Lane Leisure Centre

    Dorchester Sports Centre opened in 2012. It replaced the Thomas Hardye Leisure Centre, which was shared between the public and Thomas Hardye School. The 25m pool is the centrepiece of the £8M new Centre. It also provides a teaching pool, 50-station fitness studio, a dance studio and a 3G outdoor pitch. (In 2019 it underwent £284,000 of refurbishment and upgrading of the fitness suite).

    2012 Inspire: Luton Sports Village

    2012 Inspire: Luton Sports Village

    Another ‘sporting village’ came along in Luton in 2012. The £26M Inspire: Luton Sports Village opened after a 22-month construction phase. Alongside a 50m 8-lane Olympic-size pool there is an integrated diving area and high diving centre, a 20x10m community pool and a large 100-station health & fitness club. The new £11M contemporary Rochdale Leisure Centre was, in 2012, the final stage of a £38M investment in the area. The Centre has a fitness gum; a female only gym; group exercise studio; 25m pool; small pool; sauna and steam room and a sports hall.

    Four refurbishment projects were completed in 2012 at centres across the UK well-known for different reasons. Flint Leisure Centre reopened in 2012 after a near £1M refurbishment boost. It was named after and re-opened by Jade Jones OBE, the young Welsh taekwondo athlete who won 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medals. It now carries the title Jade Jones Pavilion. Haltemprice Leisure Centre, an early sports centre, first opened in 1973 as a popular community facility in the East Riding of Yorkshire. It had a £6M refurbishment completed in 2012, and new investment included the opening of a new fitness Tone Zone with 90 stations. The pool revamp saw it gain a moveable floor.

    2012 Jade Jones Pavilion

    2012 Jade Jones Pavilion

    (In 2021 further improvements were planned, designed and managed by the council’s in-house Building Design Group. It was to be completed by the end of 2021 and provide a further extended Tone Zone, a new purpose-built group exercise space, additional consultation rooms, new toilet facilities, and car park remodelling).

    King Alfred Leisure Centre is in Hove. It is a large Brighton and Hove City Council ‘wet & dry’ facility, converted from a 2nd World War naval training centre. It needed upgrading in 2012 after redevelopment plans collapsed in 2008. A £1.6M programme of repairs and improvements, including a £450,000 fitness gym, was completed. It continues to be a well-used and popular location.

    2012 Bilingham Forum Re-opening

    One of the most comprehensive refurbishments was the re-development of the famous Billingham Forum in the North-East. Opened in 1967 by the Queen it has an important place in the annals of leisure centre history (see Chapter 2 – 2.5). The centre closed in 2009 for the £18.5M project and was reopened in 2012 by HRH the Countess of Wessex. The substantial work saw all areas radically refurbished. Notable was the conversion of the sports hall. Half was given over to an exciting climbing attraction – Go Climb – boasting 21 unique and exciting walls and a 22’ vertical plunge slide. The other half of the hall was converted to a multi-purpose activity area. Add to that the upgraded ice skating rink and indoor bowling green and the Forum was ready for another 40 years! The project won the regional Constructing Excellence Award for Innovation and Collaboration.

    2012 Walker Activity Dome

    Another early pathfinder centre, the Lightfoot Centre (1965) with its famous dome, had undergone refurbishment first in 2004. In 2012 a further transformation was achieved with £2.5M investment programme by Newcastle City Council, which added new outdoor pitches and activity rooms, squash courts and a new café-bar. It also received a grant from the Premier League’s Community Facilities Fund, reflecting its connections with Newcastle United FC. Also striking was the renaming of the centre following a competition among pupils of the adjoining Central Walker School. It was renamed the Walker Activity Dome reflecting its location in the Walker area, its iconic shape and activities supported.

    2012 Walker Activity Dome

  2. 2013

    2013 Haven Point Leisure Centre

    Haven Point Leisure Centre in South Shields is a £16M swimming pool and leisure complex which was opened by South Tyneside Council in 2013. The Council’s Temple Park Leisure Centre had opened in 1977 with a leisure pool which was demolished in 2019, leaving a range of ‘dry’ facilities. The new centre features a 25m 8-lane competition pool, an 18m teaching pool and leisure waters with flumes, sprays, bubble pools and water play. The Centre also includes a fitness suite, health club with sauna and steamroom and two dance studios. The Centre was one of a series of regeneration projects planned by the Council, which included a community pool in Jarrow. As Haven Point designs developed the opportunity arose to include an outdoor ampitheatre and terraces for outdoor events.

    2013 The Michael Woods Centre

    Fife Council opened two new leisure centres in 2013 with grant support of £2.5M from SportScotland. They were part of a £55M leisure investment programme. The Michael Woods Centre in Glenrothes opened in July at a cost of £21M, and the 1970s Fife Institute Centre was to be replaced and upgraded with an 8-lane 25m pool and used as a competition and training centre. Michael Woods has 3 pools – a 25m pool, a 20m training pool with moveable floor and an 11m warm pool. It also has an 85-station fitness gym, sports hall, squash courts, health suite, a café and outdoor pitches (a full-size floodlit ATP, 3 five-a-side pitches and a refurbished athletics track.

    2013 Kirkcaldy Leisure Centre

    2013 Kirkcaldy Leisure Centre

    Fife’s Kirkcaldy Leisure Centre, built at a cost of £12M, is on the waterfront overlooking the Firth of Forth, and opened in September. To engage the public, it has been designed to provide a ‘shop window’ to the Esplanade, displaying café, fitness area and foyer, besides the 4-court sports hall, 25m 6-lane pool, training pool with moveable floor, 70-station fitness gym and children’s play centre.

    The Queens Diamond Jubilee Centre in Rugby replaced the Ken Marriott Leisure Centre, which served the town for 40 years and was subsequently demolished. It is sited on the old Centre’s car park and opened in the summer of 2013. It has a competition standard 8-lane 25m swimming pool, a separate 17m x 8m studio pool with moveable floor, a six-court sports hall, a large 100-station gym, space for dance and martial arts classes, and a coffee shop. The £11M Portway Lifestyle Centre in Oldbury, West Midlands, was developed by Sandwell Council and is one of a few centres to use ‘Lifestyle’ in their name. It opened in 2013. Key building features are the single storey layout and design for disabled users, including disabled parking and drop off points near to the main entrance; easy access ramp and walkways with tactile paving and handrails; a tactile map of the building located in reception; colour contrast and braille signs for all key areas of building; power assisted doors throughout the building; disabled toilets and changing areas. The centre is also a ‘Changing Places’ facility. Portway also provides a 4-court sports hall, climbing wall, hydrotherapy pool suite, 114-station fitness gym, dance studio, and a full-size floodlit £G football pitch, plus an NHS family practice. Sandwell also opened a new £8M Tipton Leisure Centre in 2013. Built on derelict land, it replaced an old swimming pool. The new Centre includes a 25m 6-lane pool, learner pool, fitness gym and dance studio.

    The £28m Holt Park Active Wellbeing Centre in Leeds opened in 2013. The facility replaced the Holt Park Leisure Centre, which closed the previous December after operating for 36 years. The project has been overseen by Leeds City Council, with funding from the Department of Health (Adult Services) through the Private Finance Initiative. The Centre aims to encourage residents of all ages to lead an active lifestyle and hosts a range of activities for older people and those with physical or learning disabilities. The Centre offers a range of flexible spaces for activities and support services that suit people of all ages. It features a 70-station Bodyline gym, 25m pool, hydrotherapy and learning pools, dance studio, sports hall, multi-activity room, ‘Changing Places’ facility and meeting/training areas and café and garden. The £15M Ebbw Vale Leisure Centre opened in September 2013 after an 18-month construction period. It has a conventional 25m 6-lane pool plus two flumes, a dance studio an 8-court sports hall, fitness gym, artificial turf pitch and cafe. (In early February 2016 storms and heavy rain in Wales led to torrential rain penetrating the Centre roof, which in turn led to closure of the Centre for some weeks).

    2013 Glass Mill Leisure Centre

    Glass Mill Leisure Centre was designed as a stand-out landmark in the London Borough of Lewisham. It cost £20M and opened in 2013. Glass Mill refers to the glass facade that fronts the new building and also reflects part of the borough’s history. It was built near the site of the old Lewisham Bridge Mill which was used in the middle of the 18th century by glass cutter Thomas Betts to manufacture chandeliers and decanters. As befits such a major development, the centre includes an 8-lane 25m competition pool, a teaching/learner pool, spectator seating, mobile floors for both pools and disabled lift with full access to the main pool. The centre also provides fitness/health suites, studios and changing rooms. The exterior façade is clad in 1400 individual glass panels that were developed in conjunction with a local artist. It initially won design accolades and was listed as one of the four best buildings completed in London in 2013/14. Regrettably in 2014 the building fabric and its operation hit a series of problems and came in for severe criticism. Some problems continued and in 2020 the Council changed its operations contractor to another trust, which itself was initially a little contentious.

    Croydon’s Waddon Leisure Centre has been open since 2013 and offers a range of modern facilities and activities for the whole community. The design is based on distinctive exterior elevations composed of zinc, glass and coloured rendered panels. The centre offers a 25m competition swimming pool, spectator seating gallery, teaching pool, 60 station gym, 2 sprung floor fitness studios, a sports hall, creche and café. The Phoenix Sport and Learning Centre in Dawley was another Telford and Wrekin Council scheme and was completed in 2013. It cost £16M and was procured through the Councils £200M Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme and saw the sports centre as integral to the Phoenix Academy. Apart from the 8-court sports hall and a secondary hall it has a 50-station health & fitness suite, a full-size 3G pitch for rugby league and football, six macadam MUGAs and a national BMX track. February 2013 saw Fraserburgh Community and Sports Centre unveiled for public use. It has a 25 metre 6-lane swimming pool, a Learner Pool, a 40 metre Flume, a 20-station fitness Suite, a 3 Court Sports Hall, 2 Saunas, a Steam Room and a coffee bar.

    The £37.84M Bangor Aurora Aquatic & Leisure Complex in Northern Ireland transformed leisure provision in the area. It received a NI Government DCAL grant of £14.43M. It was officially opened by Princess Anne in November 2013. It is located at Valentine Playing Fields. The Complex sought to service both elite performers and encourage greater participation in the community. Aurora includes Northern Ireland’s first FINA standard 10-lane 50 m x 25m swimming pool. The extensive facilities also embrace: leisure waters with waves, flumes, sidewinder slide, pirates’ galleon and bubble pool; health & fitness suite; 8-court sports hall; two squash courts; outdoor floodlit synthetic grass pitch; children’s soft adventure play area and themed soft play facility suitable for parties; children’s creche; two function rooms and a cafeteria. The successful development was a broad team effort involving North Down Borough Council, Sport Northern Ireland, DCAL, Swim Ulster, Disability Sports NI, McAdam Design and Farran Construction. Ramsgate Leisure Centre (see 2000) was refurbished and upgraded in 2013. Following a £4M project the Centre reopened with the addition of a 25m swimming pool, teaching pool and spa. Sutton Council’s Westcroft Leisure Centre in Carshalton re-opened its doors to the public in January 2013 after a 3-year closure for a £11M refurbishment. The work was required because of continuous problems and to modernize for present day leisure needs. With an existing 8-court sports hall and group fitness studio, a 160-station fitness gym was added, the pool reduced from 33m to 25m and 8 lanes, and a 20m pool added for teaching and training.

    2013 Dundee’s Olympia leisure centre.

    The original Olympia Leisure Centre, located on the shoreline of the River Tay, was demolished to make way for Dundee’s Central Waterfront Development. The new £31M Olympia swimming and leisure facility at East Whale Lane opened in June 2013. Featuring a 50m main pool, a wave pool, rapid river, dive pool and flumes it offers facilities for both families and dedicated swimmers.

    In 2013 Streatham Ice and Leisure Centre saw the return of a skating rink to Streatham with an Olympic sized rink and a 1,000-seat arena. The old Streatham Ice Arena opened its doors for the last time in 2011 after 81 years, following Lambeth Council’s decision to replace it with the £26M ice skating and leisure complex. In addition to the new ice rink there is a multi-facility leisure centre with fitness gym, group exercise studios, sports hall, 3 community rooms and 2 swimming pools (a 25m 6-lane pool and a 13m teaching pool). A world class facility was provided that also marks a technological first in the construction of a permanent ice arena above two swimming pools. The overall development incorporates a new supermarket and more than 250 new homes.

  3. 2014

    Aberdare Sobell Sports Centre was one of the two well-known Sobell Centres (the other is in Islington) funded by the Michael Sobell charity in the 1970s. The new Sobell Leisure Centre in Aberdare opened in 2014 as part of the Sobell Development, a £67m Education and Leisure investment. The Council has delivered the state-of-the-art Aberdare Community School, the new Sobell Leisure Centre, an all-weather 3G sports pitch and a skate park as part of the huge investment at the Ynys site. (The completion of a community stadium and track with a new 263-seat spectator stand and changing rooms, as part of the scheme, were delayed until 2018, due to the necessary demolition of the old Sobell Centre (originally due for removal in 2014-15) being held up because of asbestos removal).

    Sandwell Council completed another part of its overall leisure facility strategy by opening West Bromwich Leisure Centre in 2014. The Centre offers a good example of how some new centres are being procured and developed with certain larger trusts. For the West Bromwich Centre ‘Places for People’ was chosen to undertake a design, build, operate and maintain (DBOM) contract. Architects and a construction company were commissioned. The Centre offers a 25m pool, learner pool, sauna and steam room, a four-court sports hall, fitness suite, dance studios, a dedicated children’s adventure area and a café. Ystrad Mynach saw a new centre for sporting excellence opened. The £6M Caerphilly County Borough Centre for Sporting Excellence opened in May 2014. It supports community sporting excellence through outdoor clubs and perhaps has lessons for other cities and towns. The Centre’s extensive facilities include a FIFA 3G Football Pitch, an IRB 3G Rugby Pitch, 2 conference rooms, a strength and conditioning room, medical & first aid rooms, a community room, 2 grandstands (1 on each pitch each seating 500). The Centre was opened with the help and support of the Welsh Rugby Union, Welsh Football Trust, Sport Wales & Welsh Government funding. Plans for a new £10.5M leisure centre replacement in Caerphilly were backed in principle by the Council in 2012 but have not seemingly been progressed as yet.

    After a decade without a swimming pool the £31M Redcar & Cleveland Leisure and Community Heart opened in April 2014 and once again Redcar had a pool. The development brought first class facilities to the town including: a new 6-lane 25 metre pool, a training and leisure pool, a dance hall and performance space; fitness site and junior gym; sports hall; business space for small to medium sized enterprises; flexible community facilities including a debating chamber and relocated register services; improved and additional car parking; landscaped public space; and a business centre, which will offer space to people who wish to develop new business ideas, creating new companies and job opportunities; a civic space where Council business can take place including the Council Chamber and the Registry. The Centre was part-funded by the sale of the old sports centre and part-financed by the Competitiveness Programme of the European Regional Development Fund Programme 2007 to 2013.

    We have previously mentioned the role of some football clubs in facility provision. The £9M East Manchester Leisure Centre was developed by the City Council, in partnership with Manchester City FC and Sport England (each contributing 1/3 to the cost). It sits within the club’s Etihad Campus. It features a 35m x 21m community pool with moveable floor, a 70-station fitness gym, a dance studio and outdoor grass pitches. The Abraham Moss Centre, first opened in 1973, was completely revamped and expanded by 2014 as part of a comprehensive 5-year £42M scheme. The overall scheme created 420 new primary school places by extending Abraham Moss Community School. (In 2020 it was announced that the Abraham Moss complex is to be rebuilt and it could open by 2022 with a new multi-million-pound library and leisure centre. The existing leisure centre and library at Abraham Moss will be demolished to make way for the new complex. It will be the last of Manchester’s leisure centres to be upgraded under a massive investment strategy launched in 2013).

    Aberdeen Aquatics Centre is a world class facility and was an addition to the Aberdeen Sports Village facilities (see 2009). It officially opened its doors to the public in May 2014. It has a 50m 10-lane competition pool, with a dividing boom that allows the pool to be split into two distinct areas; and a 25m pool with full-floating floor and diving facilities, including springboards and platforms up to 10m. It also has a sauna & steam room, exercise studio and cafe. The Olympic standard £22 million Centre, with spectator seating for 600, was three years in the making. The new £9.5M Braintree Council Witham Leisure Centre in Essex opened in 2014. It replaced the early Bramston Sports Centre, which was demolished in 2014/15. It had the familiar mix of 25m pool, learner pool, fitness studio, two dance studios, sauna, steam room and two squash courts and café.

    2014 The Grange Community and Leisure Centre

    Lambeth Council’s West Norwood Health and Leisure Centre opened to the public on a phased basis from July 2014. It is the third leisure centre to be opened by Lambeth Council in three years (following on from Clapham and Streatham). It was also one of the centres that helped set the precedent for including other community services alongside leisure facilities, creating an integrated centre for health and wellbeing. It is the first time that joint health and leisure facilities have come together in the area. The leisure centre offers a 100-station fully equipped state of the art gym, group exercise studio and a 25m swimming pool. As well as the leisure centre, the building is home to – Community Health Services; a GP Surgery; Dental Institute; Lambeth Council Customer Centre; plus a community space for hire and an outside play area for children. The Grange Community and Leisure Centre in Midhurst, West Sussex, was another centre that pioneered the inclusion of other community services alongside leisure facilities. The building provides the community with a 21st century sport and recreation hub with a sports hall, health & fitness suite, cafe, squash courts, cafe and activity rooms and, in addition, it housed a new County Library.

    2014 Plas Madoc Leisure Centre

    When new centres have been built there has often been a realignment of centre provision within a district, with one or two centre closures. This can on occasion mean that people near a centre lose ‘local’ access. Consequently, on some occasions local groups have expressed concern and sought to keep a centre open. In a very limited number of cases this has led to the formation of a voluntary group to try and ‘rescue’ a centre.

    2014 Plas Madoc Leisure Centre

    There have been some successes and Plas Madoc Leisure Centre, is a very good example. The Plas Madoc facility is a major centre that Wrexham Council opened in February 1974 and operated for 40 years until its closure by the Council in April 2014, saying it could not afford to keep it open. It is in the centre of a housing estate and has a swimming pool, gym, squash court a spin and aerobic studio, climbing wall, soft play centre, cafe, and meeting rooms. The Council’s decision to close led to strong local opposition and a community group was formed to save it from demolition and take over the Centre. At the end of 2014, after huge efforts, it reopened under the ‘Splash Community Leisure Trust’. The Centre continues to thrive as an excellent example of a small, local community trust. It has successfully reduced running costs but remains one of the largest employers in the town. It gained a £500,000 grant in 2016 from the Welsh Government for building development.

    Oakengates Leisure Centre in Telford (£0.5M), Fareham Leisure Centre (£2M) [work began in 2020 on a further £6M reinvestment for completion by the end of 2021], Saltire Centre in Arbroath (80k) and Newham Council’s East Ham Leisure Centre all saw refurbishment work completed in 2014. The focus on each case included much enhanced fitness suites.

  4. 2015

    2015 was a busy year for new centres. Derby Arena at Pride Park is an example of some new developments by Councils that have gone outside of the box in terms of scale and facility thinking. It is an exceptional, iconic city facility and opened in 2015 at a cost of £28.9M. It was built on a former gas works site. The sporting facilities include: a 250m cycle track, a 12-court sports hall, 150 station gym, static bike studio, activity studios and meeting rooms. The total floor area exceeds 4.000m2. It has hosted international cycling events.

    2015 Derby Arena

    2015 Derby Arena

    Oldham Council impressively opened two new centres in 2015 – Oldham Leisure Centre and Royton Leisure Centre. The £15M Oldham Centre has 25m 8-lane pool – built with a £134,000 Olympic Legacy Grant – and a learner pool; 8-court sports hall; 80-station fitness gym and teen gym; dance studio; sauna & steam room; 4-rink indoor bowls green; café. The £8M Royton Centre also has a 25m pool and a learner pool, an 80-station fitness gym, two exercise studios and a spinning studio.

    2015 Tadworth Leisure & Community Centre

    The £11.5M Tadworth Leisure & Community Centre was opened in October 2015 and replaced the ageing 1973 Banstead Sports Centre. It provides a sports hall, fitness gym, exercise studio, creche, café and four outdoor five aside pitches. It was a partnership between Reigate and Banstead Council and Surrey Council, with the adjoining Phoenix Youth Centre. It received a £0.5M National Lottery Grant for regional standard basketball and trampolining facilities. Reigate and Banstead Council had also invested previously in its two other centres, Donyngs LC (see 2011) and Horley LC (see 2012).

    March saw Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, in a partnership with Blackburn College, open the new Blackburn Sports and Leisure Centre. The Centre comprises two sports halls; an 80-station fitness gym; aerobics studio; separate spinning studio, a 25m swimming pool, a training pool with moveable floor making it suitable for children, aqua aerobics and hydrotherapy; a water fun zone with flumes; and a sports science performance and testing laboratory. The official opening ceremony was performed by Rebecca Adlington OBE. The new centre saw the end of Blackburn Waves, opened 25 years previously, and reflected changes in sport and leisure over that time.

    2015 Consett Leisure Centre

    Derwentside Council’s Consett Sports Centre and the Louisa Centre were well-known venues on the North East sporting landscape in the early days of centres. Now under Durham County Council, a refurbishment of Consett was only considered a short-term solution. A major £45M project for a new Consett Academy for 1,500 pupils and a new Consett Leisure Centre came to fruition at Belle Vue, Consett, in 2015 to replace the two ageing facilities. They were officially opened by the Duke of Gloucester. The new leisure centre provides an 8-court sports hall; pool; a fitness suite; flexible studio spaces for dance and exercise classes; three squash courts; and café plus outdoors, a rugby and football compliant Astro Turf pitch; multi-use games areas and a sprint track for jump and sprint practice. (Subsequently, in 2018, there were some significant problems identified with the pool, complicated by the fact that the construction contractor, Carillion, had since gone out of business).

    2015 Consett Leisure Centre

    Durham County Council’s Louisa Centre in Stanley (also with Derwentside DC originally), on the other hand lent itself to refurbishment and extended use. It had opened in the 1970s and had been refurbished in 2004 with a Lottery grant, when a 7-lane 25m swimming pool was added. Further renovations in 2015 saw council offices and a library being incorporated into the Louisa Centre complex.

    The £16M Harvey Hadden Sports Village opened in 2015 and provides an interesting case. New leisure developments very often take place on sites not previously used for sports activities. Yet some sports sites and locations have a long background history and that is the case in Nottingham. The Harvey Hadden Stadium and track was built in 1959, expanded in the 1970s (and renovated in 2014 – capacity 1600). The stadium has, over the years, hosted rugby union and rugby league teams, American football and of course athletics. In 1999 the Harvey Hadden Sports Centre was added to the site, offering a sports hall, fitness suite, indoor 60m running track, function rooms and cafe. In 2015 the Harvey Hadden Sports Village was created by extension and refurbishment of the leisure centre, providing a new 50m pool and associated facilities. The pool has adjustable floors and can be divided into 2 x 25m pools. Some of the existing floorspace was reconfigured to plan a new fitness suite, multi-purpose studio and health suite. The significance of the Village was highlighted by Sport England investing £2M in the scheme from the National Lottery using the Iconic Facilities Fund. The Village is seen as the jewel in the crown of Nottingham’s 10-year leisure investment programme.

    2015 Huddersfield Leisure Centre

    Huddersfield Leisure Centre replaced the original 1970s centre at a cost of £36M. The new leisure centre is one of a number of stand-out centres, reflected in the capital cost, which have both a traditional pool and a form of leisure pool, called a water park in the case of Huddersfield. It also has a sports hall, climbing wall and martial arts facilities. Kirklees Council funded the Centre from the sale of the previous centre site, plus additional council money that would have been used to maintain and repair the old building. Foyle Arena in Derry was a 2015 opening of a £12M Northern Ireland development. It is one of six Derry and Strabane Council leisure centres. Foyle Arena facilities include a 25m swimming pool with a movable/ adjustable floor alongside a separate children’s pool. It has a climbing area which is designed to cater for all levels from complete beginners to international competitors, boasting an international standard 15m high competition wall complemented by a technical bouldering section, the most advanced of its kind anywhere in Ireland. It also includes an event space that can cater for 2,000 people. Outdoors there is a floodlit 3G synthetic five-a-side pitch.

    2015 The new Washington Leisure Centre offers a range of facilities including a six-lane 25m pool and a learner pool with two hydro slides, a four-court sports hall and sauna and steam rooms. In addition, there are a soft play area and an additional multi purpose hall suitable for high-level trampoling training. Client: Sunderland City Council. Architect: Watson Batty Architects. Main Contractor: Pellikaan Construction

    Several centres opened in 2015 with a mix of a 25m pool, learner pool, health & fitness suite, and some with a sports hall and other ancillary facilities – these included Washington Leisure Centre (£11M), in what was once a new town. The new Centre, built on the site of the previous complex, has a comprehensive range of modern wet and dry facilities; Abbey Leisure Centre, Barking (£14M); Selby Leisure Centre (£7M); Sandwell Council’s Wednesbury Leisure Centre in the West Midlands (£8.1M); Cotlandswick Leisure Centre in London Colney (£4.6M) and Crumlin Leisure Centre (£5M) in Antrim Borough. Hough End Leisure Centre in 2015 was part of the major programme of investment in leisure facilities undertaken by Manchester City Council as part of a scheme to create three new leisure centres. Hough End is the second of those centres, joining the East Manchester Leisure Centre (see 2014).

    The Arsenal Hub is another example of a facility provided by a football club for the community. The Hub, opened in 2015, is part of the overall £390M Emirates Stadium regeneration project and marked its completion. Modelled on the successful JVC centre at the previous Highbury Stadium its arrival coincided with the 30th anniversary of the Arsenal in the Community scheme. The Hub provides a 50m x 18m 4G astroturf indoor pitch, classrooms, cafe and office space. School sports centres and halls continue to add to the national stock. Nowhere is there a better example than Cambridgeshire.

    2015 Trumpington College

    The county is experiencing rapid housing development and population expansion. In the wake of this new schools abound and each secondary school is getting a sports hall/centre. Three 2015 examples are: the new Trumpington College (2015) with a 4-court sports hall, dance studio, 3G pitches with floodlighting and a multi-use games area. Another is Swavesey College, which already had a sports hall, and in 2015 had the addition of a further sports hall as part of a new school block from the EFA’s Academies Capital Maintenance Fund. The same year the Fund also grant-aided Hinchingbrooke School for a new sports hall and fitness gym suite.

    2015 was also a busy year for the refurbishment and extension of existing centres, especially for fitness suites. Recorded here are: -The refurbished Radcliffe Leisure Centre in Bury re-opened after storm damage in 2013. The Littledown Centre in Bournemouth (£1.7M); Waterlane Leisure Centre (built in 1976) in Lowestoft has had a series of improvements – £1.1M in 2015 (after £8M in 2012). South Gloucestershire Council’s Yate Leisure Centre had a 75% Lottery Grant towards a £564,166 budget for environmental improvements (later in 2017 it had a £1.4M revamp of its pools (a temporary pool was installed elsewhere during the works). In 2015 a refurbishment of The Sobell Centre in Islington was completed at a cost of £1.2M. The Falls Leisure Centre in Belfast celebrated its 10th anniversary by opening a refurbished centre with a new 53-station gym. Waterlooville Leisure Centre (built in 1991) opened a new 3-storey gym and a studio. Wymondham Leisure Centre’s £3.5M project has a 2-storey gym with 100 stations, a spa area, steam room and sauna. £3M was the cost of a transformation of Eldon Leisure in Newcastle upon Tyne. The centre had originally been built in 1976 and opened by the Queen as part of the new Eldon Square shopping centre. It now incorporates an 8-lane ten-pin bowling alley, fitness gym and studios, and adventure climbing arena. A six-month £650,000 refurbishment of Guisborough Swim and Fitness Centre was completed in July 2015. Lisburn’s Leisure Pool at Lagan Valley Leisureplex (see 2000) re-opened after six months in dry dock and £3.4M of improvements and additions to the leisure pool, reception and changing rooms.

2016-2021 Councils continue to deliver new and refurbished centres

2016:  View pictures below of Ashington Leisure Centre, left to right, click to enlarge for captions.

2016:  View pictures below of Concordia Leisure Centre, left to right, click to enlarge for captions.

  1. 2016

    In 2016 there were three distinct categories of new centre opened based on their capital cost, plus a range of refurbishments and extensions. Of course, many factors can affect the capital cost of a new centre, including site costs and the availability of funding. Nonetheless, it does give an indication of the scale of the facilities provided. We record here new centres that opened to the public for the first time in 2016 and varied in capital cost from £7M to in excess of £20M.

    The capital cost of the new flagship Ashington Leisure Centre at £20M was an investment by Northumberland County Council. It opened in January 2016. It was described as a regional centre of excellence, and it received a £1M National Lottery grant. The first Ashington Sports Centre opened in 1972. To replace it had taken Northumberland County Council 5 years of planning. Alongside the 6-lane 25m pool (which has a boom to create a smaller 16m pool for teaching and schools’ use), it has a 6-court sports hall with special indoor cricket nets and is particularly well-equipped for gymnastics; fitness gym; exercise studios; and a tranquility spa with spa pool, sauna and steam room and treatment rooms. The Centre is also home to the new Ashington Library, which includes 18 computer terminals. All Northumberland County Council centres are managed by its partner leisure trust, Active Northumberland.

    A major overhaul and refurbishment of Northumberland CC’s Concordia Leisure Centre in Cramlington, first opened by the Queen in 1977, was also completed in 2016. Phase 1 updated the current facilities to make maximum use of the existing space – the sports hall was divided in two with one half remaining unchanged with 4 courts. The other half of the hall hosts a soft play area and the region’s first Clip ‘n Climb facility, a series of climbing-based challenges that use an automatic belay device to make indoor climbing accessible for all ages and abilities. Phase 2 included the creation of a new 10 lane, 10-pin bowling centre in place of the former indoor bowling green, a dedicated spinning studio with a tiered layout to optimise the use of the space and to feature virtual instructors as well as traditional group cycling classes. A new Tranquillity Spa and updates to the dry changing areas and party rooms were also included. The third and final phase featured improvements to the foyer and entrance including a new cafe, the creation of an additional fitness studio, and the relocation of Cramlington Library into the Centre. The centre also accommodates the head office of the leisure trust, Active Northumberland. Concordia relinquished 3 squash courts and kept three, as part of its development.

    2016 Kensington Leisure Centre

    A joint education and leisure scheme, similar to that in Consett in 2015, and valued overall at £54M opened in 2016.  Kensington Leisure Centre was built at a cost of £29M to replace the former centre which was demolished. It was built with the adjoining Kensington Aldridge Academy by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council. The previous centre was closed in 2012 and demolished. The new facilities are extensive, offering a 120-station fitness gym, 3 swimming pools (a 25m 8-lane main pool with seating for 250, a 20m teaching pool with a moveable floor and a leisure pool), a sports hall, 2 squash courts, a spa with sauna and steam room, three exercise studios including a cycle spinning studio and a cafe. Another new £20M London centre that opened in 2016, is Southwark Council’s Castle Leisure Centre. The former centre closed for demolition and land redevelopment in 2012 and the new centre opened in April. As with many other new centres, it features a 6-lane 25m pool, learner pool, sauna and steam rooms, a sports hall, fitness gym, two exercise studios, a creche and a cafe. It had originally been planned to open in 2014 but site excavations in 2012 found a mass medieval grave of 500 skeletons.

    2016 old Wycombe Centre

    Bridlington Leisure Centre is in the East Riding of Yorkshire and on the town seafront, with unrivalled views across the bay to Flamborough Head. It opened with a very similar range of facilities to Kensington. The £25M centre funded by East Riding of Yorkshire Council received a £2.1M grant from the Coastal Communities Fund and £2M from Sport England. It is an important part of the town’s regeneration. It replaced Bridlington Leisure World, which had been built in the 1980s. Both the old centre was, and the new centres is, important to the tourism economy of the town and area. The new £25m Wycombe Leisure Centre opened to the public in January 2016 with an impressive range of facilities. It replaced a 40-year-old sports centre which closed the previous month, its site sold for redevelopment. The new centre is part of the Handy Cross Hub project. A 150-station fitness gym is central to the new offering, alongside a 50m pool, a 20m teaching pool and a community splash pool, a 12-court sports hall, indoor cycling and exercise studios, squash courts, a 4-rink bowling green and a 10m high climbing wall.

    2016 Wyre Forest Leisure Centre

    2016 Wyre Forest Leisure Centre

    Walsall Council, as part of a wider strategy, planned two new facilities for opening in August 2016 – Oak Park and Bloxwich Active Living Centres. Bloxwich was built on the former 1991 sports centre site. Each centre includes a 25m pool (Bloxwich 8-lane/ Oak Park 6-lane), a teaching pool, 6-court sports hall, dance studio and cafe. Oak Park also has 2 glass-back squash courts, sauna and steam room and a floodlit 3G artificial turf pitch. The total budget for the two centres was £24.3M and was supported by a £2M grant from Sport England’s ‘Iconic’ facilities scheme. Also replacing a 40-year-old centre in 2016 was the £11.3M Workington Leisure Centre. It too had the same mix of facilities as Oak Park and Bloxwich. It became the only 8-lane pool in Cumbria and the learner pool has a moveable floor.  Newham Council-funded £14.7M Atherton Leisure Centre opened in April. Built on the site of the previous centre, with a similar mix of facilities to Oak Park with a cycling studio added. The £15M new Hinckley Leisure Centre also replaced a 1970s centre. It offers an 8-court sports hall, a huge 143-station gym, a 25m 8-lane pool with moveable floor, learner pool, a wet play splash area, dance studios and sauna and steam room. £11.9M was the build cost for the attractively designed new centre for Kidderminster, Wyre Forest Leisure Centre, which opened in 2016. It was built on a former British Sugar industrial site. The Leisure Centre was grant aided by Sport England to the tune of £2M.

    Clearly by 2016 a consistent picture was emerging from the combined efforts of Councils and architects. The majority of medium to large centres were incorporating a 25m pool (sometimes 8 lanes and accompanied by a learner pool, and one or other or both having a moveable floor); a sports hall, always a large fitness gym, plus exercise/dance studios, even a climbing wall sometimes, and in many situations, sauna and steam room and children’s play/soft play area, and always a cafe. Wyre Forest Leisure Centre facilities fits this mould with all those facilities listed. The Centre was developed on a DBOM contract for 25 years. The New £14.9M Flitwick Leisure Centre by Central Bedfordshire Council has an eye-catching design and exactly fits our mould of facilities, with the addition of outdoor ATP 5-a-side pitches. Flitwick also had a £2M Sport England grant and a land exchange with Flitwick Town Council. Three other centres of not too dissimilar build cost and facilities also opened during 2016. Heston Pools and Fitness Centre in Hounslow (£13.5M) replaced a 1930s swimming pool. Crewe Lifestyle Centre (£15M) is a central activity hub for the town and the Queens Park Sports Centre (£11.25M) in Chesterfield.

    2016 Graves Health and Leisure Centre, Sheffield

    Afan Lido was a pioneering centre opened in 1965 on the seafront in Aberavon (see Chapter2). It was costing £700,000 a year before closure but was eventually demolished in 2011 after a fire in 2009. 140 homes were built on the old site. 2016 saw the opening of the £13.4M Aberavon Leisure & Fitness Centre, the replacement for Afan Lido, which again was built on Aberavon seafront. With an appropriate wavy roof, the Centre opened in early 2016 with an 8-lane pool, fitness centre, dance studio and sports hall. A 2016 £16M sports and medicine centre opened in Norton, Sheffield at the Graves Tennis and Leisure Centre. The complex was refurbished and extended to be the ‘new’ Graves Health and Leisure Centre and the Sheffield hub of the National Sports and Exercise Medicine Centre of Excellence, funded by the Department of Health (the other two being in Loughborough and London). The refurbished Graves Centre includes a replacement 6-lane pool, the two indoor tennis courts, gymnastics & trampoline centre and extended fitness gym. Macduff is a town in the Banff and Buchan area of Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

    2016 Macduff Centre, Aberdeenshire

    The Macduff Community and Sports Centre (£3.5M) opened in 2016 and was formally opened by HRH The Princess Royal. Together with the Deveron Community & Sports Centre in Banff (opened in 2017) the two centres represented a £12.7M investment in community leisure by Aberdeenshire Council. Both centres have a swimming pool, gym, sports hall and all-weather pitches.

    In 2016 a number of other new investments costing between £7M and £9M arrived on the scene, particularly Grimsby Leisure Centre (£8.4M); Newark Sports and Fitness Centre (£11M), replacing the old Grove Sports Centre as part of a mixed use development; Tewkesbury Leisure Centre (£7.5M) replacing the Cascades Centre; the new Arcadia Library and Leisure Centre (£9.1M) in Levenshulme, Manchester; Oadby and Wigston Council’s £9M on the Parklands Leisure Centre and Wigston Pool and Fitness Centre; and Thorncliffe Leisure Centre, with some specialist research facilities to fit with the Graves Centre’s role (NCSEM). Holly Hill Leisure Centre is Fareham’s second leisure centre and opened in 2016. The £9m centre houses a 6-lane 25m swimming pool, a learner pool and a health club with a 100-station gym floor and group exercise and cycling studios. Outdoor facilities include two football pitches, a children’s play area and a multi-use games area.

    2016 Grimsby Leisure Centre

    A £11m leisure centre for Newark; Sherwood District Council. Newark Leisure Centre includes a six lane 25m main pool, an 8.5 x 20m teaching pool with water features, a four-court sports hall, a 200-station fitness suite, 2 squash courts with moveable wall, 2 exercise studios and ancillary accommodation including on-site parking and landscape works. Client: Newark & Sherwood District Council. Architect: Watson Batty. Main Contractor: R G Carter

    2016 Arcadia Library and Leisure Centre

    2016 Holly Hill Leisure Centre

    2016 Holly Hill Leisure Centre

    2016 Selby Summit leisure village

    In May 2016 the Selby Summit leisure village followed in the footsteps of the XC Hemel Hempstead (see 2011) in breaking the traditional mould of a public recreation centre. Selby Council commissioned the Selby Summit at a cost of £5.3M. The centre was based on modern and innovative ideas, indoor adventure and wide appeal to the active in the community, young and older. The facilities included a six-lane 10-pin bowling alley, adventure climbing with themed climbing panels up to 8 metres, aerial tracking ropes set above the indoor skate and BMX park, two indoor ski simulators, an adventure play zone for children and two café options. The Summit is also linked to the new Selby Leisure Centre by a new glass walkway. By 2021 the Council was saying the Summit was unviable because of lockdown restrictions and loss of income. The Summit was being used as a vaccination centre for the pandemic and had, at the time, an uncertain future.

    The £23M Waltham Forest Feel Good Centre opened in November 2016. It was ready on time, completed within budget, and now provides the local community with a state-of-the-art sports and leisure facility. The leisure centre includes a 25m 6-lane pool, a learner pool with moveable floor, a gym, dance and spinning studios, a community room and café. The design of the building incorporates a number of innovative structural elements relating to its steel frame, sprayed concrete pool tank, and a green roof complementing the surrounding recreational ground.

    2016 Bradley Stoke Leisure Centre and Library

    We also highlight some 2016 refurbishments, including some substantial projects –  Fairfield Leisure Centre Dartford (£12M) (fitness gym increased further in size in 2017 at a cost of £533,000 because of 60% increase in usage); Drumbrae Leisure Centre in Edinburgh; a new facility within a Grade II listed building to create Poplar Baths Leisure Centre in Tower Hamlets; The original Ponteland Leisure Centre (new 55-station fitness gym – see also new Centre 2020) and environmental improvement projects at Peckham Pulse (Southwark Council) and South Gloucestershire’s Bradley Stoke Leisure Centre and Library. As another indication of the trend in including libraries in leisure centres, in 2016 Porthmadog Library was relocated to Glaslyn Leisure Centre following significant works funded by the Welsh Government.

    2016 Glaslyn Leisure Centre

  2. 2017

    2017 The Portal, Irvine

    Rushcliffe is part of the Nottinghamshire joint provision heritage (see Chapter 8). It’s school-located leisure pool-based recreation centre (1977) set new standards but by the end of 2017 it had closed. New leisure facilities were developed with the Rushcliffe Arena opening in West Bridgford in January 2017. Facilities include a 25m pool, learner pool, a fitness suite, bowls hall, aerobics and group cycling studios and, a nod to the former leisure pool, a ‘family beach’ at the learner pool. 2016 had seen the end of an era with the closure of the iconic Magnum leisure centre in Irvine on Scotland’s west coast.  It was the largest centre in Europe until Crowtree opened its doors and took the mantle. The Magnum had served local, regional and tourist visitors for 40 years until its demolition in 2016. As with many centres, there was much disagreement about its closure and the replacement of leisure facilities. Decisions made in 2013 led in due course to two years of construction and The Portal emerged in 2017 in the shape of an impressive community, cultural and leisure centre costing £20M.

    2017 The Portal – Sports Hall

    The Portal was built in the town centre alongside the historic Town House. The facilities provided meant no leisure pool or ice rink, as with the Magnum, but are nonetheless impressive with a 25m 6-lane pool, teaching pool, 6-court sports hall, community hall, fitness and must-use studios, cafe and tourist information. The Town House was integrated to create a venue for local and family history, art exhibits, and community and cultural events.

    Northern Ireland saw some important developments in 2017. Three centres we note that opened that year are Olympia, Dungiven and Newry. The Olympia Centre opened in January as part of Belfast’s overall £105M transformation scheme. It has two pools, a 120-station gym, spin studio, sports hall, exercise studio, a luxury day spa (the first centre in Belfast to feature one) and a coffee corner. (External sports provision consisting of a 3G pitch, MUGA, play park and tree lined promenade was completed in 2018). In March Dungiven Sports Centre was opened by Causeway Coast and Glen Borough Council. It is a ‘dry’ centre with an expected range of indoor provision – fitness gym, sports hall, dance studio, changing rooms, kitchen and a floodlit 3G pitch. Dungiven is a small town (popn. 3288) in County Londonderry. In November, the new £22M Newry Leisure Centre was opened by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council. Newry has a population of 26,967. As well as an 8-lane Pool and learner/leisure pool with water features, it has a health suite, sports hall, 80+ station Gym, multi-purpose rooms, spin studio, indoor soft play area, and squash courts.

    Birmingham City Council planned a £40M scheme for four new centres. The first of these, the £7.5M Erdington Leisure Centre, opened in September with core mix of a 25m pool, teaching pool, health club with 70-station gym and group exercise space. Erdington has a Ward population of 22,828. In June, another sports village opened, this time in North Yorkshire. Scarborough Council invested £15M into Scarborough Sports Village, which is built on a former industrial site. It replaced Scarborough Sports Centre and Scarborough Pool and combines an 8-lane 25m swimming pool with seating for 250, a four-court sports hall, 60-station fitness suite, multi-activity room and a community football stadium with a 3G pitch and spectator accommodation.

    Two very interesting centres opened at either end of the county of Hampshire. In the north-east of the County, Hart District Council opened the £23M Hart Leisure Centre in Fleet with an array of facilities: a climbing wall (space for 5 climbers from ground to first floor); fitness gym (120+ state-of-the-art stations, plus multi-use cross-training space); 3 pools (8-lane 25m swimming pool, a teaching pool/children’s play area – suitable for toddler to junior lessons as well as a shallow play area with mini fountains and geysers, and a multipurpose swimming pool with movable floor; and of course a sports hall – 8-court size; martial arts and dance studios; creche, coffee shop and sun terrace. It also provides a wide range of outdoor facilities:- 2 junior natural turf pitches, 4 floodlit artificial grass pitches and 1 FIFA standard full-size, flood-lit artificial grass pitch; plus a very large car park, and  a footpath to and from the country park. It replaced the previous Hart Centre which was also adjacent to Calthorpe Park School.

    2017 Fleming Park Centre at 40

    Close to Hampshire’s south coast, the £25M ‘Places Leisure Eastleigh‘ centre opened in November replacing the old Fleming Park Centre on the same site prior to Fleming Park’s demolition. It received a £2M grant from Sport England. It is notable in reflecting a start to naming some centres after the operating trust’s name, here the Places for People trust, no doubt as a sponsorship element of the management contract arrangements. It has the large centre mix of an 8-lane 25m pool, learner pool with adjustable depth, a 15-badminton size sports hall, a 150-station gym, exercise studios, 4 squash courts with moveable wall, a multi-storey soft play area and spacious cafe. Netball England contributed £90,000 to use as a South of England training base.


    In Greater Manchester Bolton opened the new £10M Horwich Leisure Centre in December, with what had become the standard mix of pools, fitness gym, exercise rooms and 4-court hall. The old Horwich Centre was demolished as part of the redevelopment. On the Clyde riverside, at Queen’s Quay, the £23M Clydebank Leisure Centre represented a massive investment by West Dunbartonshire Council. Opened in March 2017 it is a facility that provided the area with an uplift with an attractive range of modern leisure facilities. These ranged from a 25m six-lane swimming pool; teaching pool; leisure pool with waves and flume; changing facilities; and a café; to a multi-purpose sports hall with retractable seating, a fitness suite and dance studio. The Council predicted that around 500,000 people would visit the leisure centre in the first year. Bromsgrove Council’s new £13.7M Bromsgrove Leisure Centre opened in 2017. It received a grant of £1.5M via Sport England. The Centre was developed in four phases and the old centre then demolished. The Centre is part of a Town Centre Regeneration Partnership Plan valued at £100M. The Centre boasts a 100-station gym, 15-route climbing centre, spinning studio and multiple group exercise studios. This is along with a 25m x 12.5M pool, 15M x 10M adjustable floor learner pool, spa, sauna, steam room, aroma room and jacuzzi.

    Alongside the line of newly constructed centres, plenty of refurbishment projects came to fruition in 2017. Hambleton Council’s Northallerton Leisure Centre had a revamp with a significant extension of 5,100 sq. ft costing £2.5M. A new health & fitness suite with conversion of the existing gym into exercise and cycle spinning rooms increased the capability of the Centre. The sports hall and water slides were also upgraded. A major £13M refurbishment of the famous Coral Reef Waterworld in Bracknell, a landmark leisure pool from 1990, was carried out in 2017, including 5 interactive waterslides, the most technical advanced at that time (the Cannon, Poseidon’s Peril, Maelstrom, Storm Chaser and Aqua Splash). As the re-opening of the £2M refurbishment of the Westway Sports and Fitness Centre, under the Westway Flyover in North Kensington, was being planned in June 2017 after a £3.7M refurbishment, disaster struck the neighbourhood with the Grenfell Tower Fire just 200 yards away. The Centre switched roles to become a humanitarian centre for two months, including temporary sleeping accommodation, in the wake of the horrific disaster. To reopen properly a large cleanup and asbestos test operation was needed as the fire had deposited a lot of debris on the building and outdoor pitches. Come August the official reopening was used as a boost for the local community. The refurbished Centre had a new state of the art cycling studio and group exercise studio added, improved climbing area and new fitness centre. A major £10.5M extension and refurbishment transformed Worcester City Council’s Perdiswell Leisure Centre, which reopened in early 2017. A new 8-lane 25m pool, 18m x 10m multi-use pool, fitness gym, new studios and cafe were added to create a ‘new’ flagship centre for the city. £5M was invested in redeveloping Lancaster City Council’s Salt Ayre Leisure Centre. The changes made included installing a new cycling studio, 80-station fitness suite, climbing wall and adventure play area.

    Continuing the football club trend in 2017, in the shadows of Everton FC’s Goodison Park, the EitC Community Hub – also known as ‘The People’s Hub’ – created an innovative ‘community campus’ with a sporting emphasis that meets the needs of all members of the local community and a place for the Everton FC charity to call home. The Hub has a Free School and Football College, a small general purpose hall and an outdoor Cruyff Court (a modern interpretation of the traditional soccer field – bringing back the opportunity of playing football in the middle of your neighbourhood), as well as community and social facilities.

  3. 2018

    2018 Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre


    2018 The Hive

    The £28m Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre in Romford opened its doors to the public at the beginning of 2018. The project has been funded by the London Borough of Havering as part of their sport and fitness investment scheme. It was the Council’s largest single investment to date. The centre was named after the sapphire reign of Queen Elizabeth II. It is home to Havering’s only ice rink with capacity for 1,200 skaters and rink-side spectator seating for up to 1,000 people. The rink meant that the London Raiders could return to play in Romford. The other extensive facilities include: 8-lane 25-metre main pool; 15 x 8-metre learner pool with adjustable floor; pool-side spectator seating; sauna and steam room; 100-station fitness suite; dedicated group-cycling studio; group exercise studio; and two cafes. The Hive was the unique title given to East Cambridgeshire District Council’s new £13.5M leisure centre in Ely, which opened in May 2018. The name reflects the areas Fenland heritage and the active nature of the building. The Hive completed the 6.5-acre Ely Leisure Village, which has a six-screen cinema and several restaurants. It also sits alongside other neighbouring sports clubs and facilities. It received a £1.5M National Lottery grant. It includes that now very familiar facility mix of an eight-lane 25m swimming pool, a learner pool with moveable floor, and a health club with a 120-station gym floor, two activity studios and a four-court sports hall. Outdoor facilities include a 3G ATP.

    Westminster Council’s £28M Moberly Sports Centre in London – which includes the first newly-built public swimming pool in Westminster in almost 40 years, opened its doors for the first time in June 2018. Developed at little cost to the Council as part of a £60M+ regeneration scheme which included 120 homes and saw the planned demolition of two other centres (the previous Moberly and Jubilee centres). The centre includes a six-lane 25m swimming pool, a 13m teaching pool with movable floor and an eight-court sports hall with retractable spectator seating for up to 500 people. There is also a health club with a 100-station gym floor and exercise and dance studios, a dedicated gymnastics hall and a multi-use room suitable for sports such as boxing. Moberley has been designed to meet the highest levels of accessibility for disabled users, both in terms of entry and changing facilities. The changing facilities and toilets were provided through “Changing Places” guidelines for the facility rights of people with learning or physical disabilities. In the first year the Centre had 444.000 visitors and over 4,500 gym members.

    Horsham District Council had opened the first Leisure Centre in Broadbridge Heath in the mid-1980s. In November 2011, arisIng from a review of leisure provision in the District, the Council decided to close the Centre. It was the Council’s largest leisure centre and it said that it faced a repair bill of £1.5M, a third of its indoor space was not used and it was considered surplus to requirements. The review said that the District was “well provided” with leisure facilities and it should close in a year’s time. There was a huge public protest and the Council then decided on a reprieve pending a study of options for the Centre. 2013 proved a bumper year for the Centre for visitor numbers. The decision in 2013/2014 to build a new centre meant that the existing Centre stayed open whilst a new replacement centre next door was planned and built. So, in October 2018 The Bridge, a new £12.3M sports and leisure centre opened. The Bridge had a thrilling new feature in a colourful and challenging Clip ‘n Climb climbing facility, with the Twister, Astroball, Stairway to Heaven and Leap of Faith features. The centre also embraces a 70-station gym, 6-court sports hall, three studios including a cycle studio, an original sensory room, a cafe, meeting room, and outdoors 5 sports courts and an Athletics track. Just 30 metres of the old centre’s long indoor athletics tube was retained – not a popular decision with keen athletes.

    2018 Littlehampton Wave

    Newry, Mourne and Down Council in Northern Ireland added to its centres in 2018 with the Down Leisure Centre, costing £15M and replacing an old centre. This was a major investment on three floors, in the heart of Downpatrick. It has a 6-lane pool, learner pool with moveable floor, health suite, spin studio, 4-court sports hall, 85 station gym. Littlehampton Wave is also a £15M development situated on the seafront between Littlehampton and Rustington. Planning started in 2015 and it replaced the adjacent Littlehampton Swimming & Sports Centre, which was demolished as Wave opened. Like many other new centres, Wave has a 25m 8-lane pool, multi-purpose pool with moveable floor, an 85-station gym with sea views, dance studios, 4-court sports hall, cycling studio and a foyer cafe and spectator area. 2018-19 was a busy period for Birmingham City Council. The £9M Stechford Leisure Centre opened in east Birmingham. Northfield Leisure Centre (£7.7M) opened in May 2018 and was Birmingham’s third centre to open as part of the Council’s £40M investment programme (Erdington had opened in 2017. In 2019 Ladywood Leisure Centre opened. All four centres were developed by the same design and construction team). Towards the end of 2018 Merton Council replaced the ageing Morden Park Pool with Morden Leisure Centre. Costing £13.7M it is viewed as a state-of-the-art, cashless facility overlooking Morden Park. A 90-station fitness gym has the latest equipment for cardio, resistance and functional training. For swimming it has 25m 6-lane main pool, a secondary pool with moveable floor, several diving platforms, and a poolpod, to allow easy access into the pools. In addition to the upstairs pool viewing gallery there is a café in the reception area. In November 2018 the Waltham Abbey Leisure Centre opened to the public, following 13 months and £9.5m of building work.

    2018 Littlehampton Wave

    Wakefield Council’s Minsthorpe Leisure Centre in South Elmsall, Pontefract, was a £5M investment in a 25m 6-lane pool, 60-station health and fitness club, junior gym and a group exercise studio. It replaced the old pool, Minsthorpe Pool, which had closed in 2013. North Lincolnshire Council’s new dual use £7.5M Axholme North Leisure Centre officially opened in December on the Isle of Axholme. Nestled behind and sharing The Axholme Academy site in Crowle, the new centre houses a 4-lane 25m pool, pool spectator area, sauna and steam room, 16 station gym, fitness studio, 3G football pitch and outdoor tennis and netball courts. To complement the new leisure centre, the Academy’s sports hall has also had a makeover and is available for community groups to hire outside of school hours. A dual use facility was thus created. Another school, off its own bat, completing a facility for the school and community that year was St Andrews School Sports Centre in Pangbourne, Berkshire. Ensuring full accessibility by working with ‘SportsAble’ was fundamental to the project, with all areas offering full disability access. Facilities include a 36m x 18m sports hall, 4-lane swimming pool with hoist, group exercise and dance studio, 9m 4-channel climbing wall and viewing galleries over the pool and hall.

    Following the small number of facilities connected to football clubs is the very impressive £20M Beacon of Light, which is a vibrant community hub. It is backed by Sunderland Football Club’s Foundation of Light Charity. Officially opened in September 2018, it is in a prime position next to the club’s Stadium of Light and overlooking the River Wear. It has five levels providing in all 12 badminton courts, football provision – an indoor arena and outdoor pitches – as well as zones for education, the world of work, and health & wellbeing – all in keeping with its community objectives. It can also host conferences, events and meetings. Built with a lightweight acrylic shell, the building is illuminated at night.

    Refurbishments and extensions to existing centres also continued apace in 2018. A £1M project by Castle Point Council, in Essex, to turn Runnymede Pool into Runnymede Leisure Centre saw the opening in January of a new gym with first class equipment, a spinning room and studio for group sessions, a new café and other refurbishments, all in addition to the improved 25m pool. Warwick District Council has six centres and invested £14.5m (including £2M from Sport England), in two centres in 2018. The refreshed Newbold Leisure Centre in Leamington now houses a 4-court sports hall, a 100-station gym, plus three studios including spin cycling and a climbing wall. St. Nicholas Park Leisure Centre in Warwick now has an 80-station gym (triple the previous size) and two exercise studios and a refurbished 25m pool. Gosport Leisure Centre (see opened 2012), going with demand, reinvested again in 2018 with a new 279 sq.m. high quality dance studio. The former studio was converted for cycle spinning. The Triangle Leisure Centre (see 2009) in Burgess Hill had a £600,000 facelift. Both remedial and improvement works updated the 19-year-old centre, including a transformation of the leisure pool beach area with new interactive water features and a new slide.

    2018 Moss Side Leisure Centre

    Refurbishments at Wadebridge Leisure Centre in Cornwall were completed in December. Again, the business focus was on a major gym refurbishment. Fitness and exercise improvements were also the focus for Harrow Leisure Centre (see 2004). £400,000 was invested in a new-look gym with better equipment (an extra 12 stations up to192) and an improved exercise studio with a spring-loaded floor. (In 2008 a £250,000 investment programme had renewed and regenerated the then 122-station facility). Deben Leisure Centre in East Suffolk was refurbished and opened in September 2018. One of Hull’s main centres, the Woodford Leisure Centre, had a £6M re-development, including a new 25m 6-lane pool, the addition of a learner pool, a 30-cycle spinning studio, and a thermal glazing system roof to reduce operating costs. Bath Leisure Centre had an £8M revamp. The gym and sports hall and 25m pool were refurbished and a new teaching pool installed. The leisure pool with flume and play features were refurbished as was the sauna. A new 120-station gym, two new fitness studios (one of which is a Virtual Studio) were also added. Moss Side Leisure Centre & Hulme High Street Library in Manchester also had an £8M refurbishment and extension project which saw the existing 1970s Moss Side Leisure Centre transformed. Beside all the infrastructure and services improvements, changing and access facilities to ‘Changing Places’ standards and a Poolpod for independent wheelchair access were installed. The existing gym was also extended. Moss Side and Abraham Moss (see 2014) make up a £16m Manchester City Council upgrade plan agreed in 2016.

  4. 2019

    Belfast City Council planned an investment of £105M over ten years to transform its seven leisure facilities. It forms part of its overall £400M physical investment programme. The Transformation Programme won the leisure category at the inaugural RICS Social Impact Awards, Northern Ireland. The first phase of the programme focused on the re-development of the Olympia Centre (see 2017). The first new centre to be developed under the programme was the £20M Lisnaharragh Leisure Centre, which opened in 2019. It has a 25m 8-lane pool with 250 spectator seats; a learner pool with movable floor and diving provision; confidence water for small children and toddlers; 140 station fitness suite and exercise studios; spin studio; 4-court sports hall; multipurpose room, café and outdoor 5-a-side pitches. The Avoniel Centre redevelopment (see 2021) focused on creating outdoor leisure provision. Belfast’s Templemore Baths from Victorian times (1893) was also part of the transformation programme. It had been saved from closure in the 1980s. The Baths were recorded as the only remaining UK Victorian Baths that still had its interior fabric and fittings intact. The partnership of Council and Heritage Lottery Fund seeks to preserve and interpret the buildings heritage but provide a modernised leisure facility – Templemore Swim & Fitness Centre – due to re-open in 2022. The £17M project funding comes from the City Council and from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (£2M). The original pool, laundry room, and slipper baths are being restored, and an additional 25m six lane pool, spa and fitness facility and interpretation space added. The seventh Belfast facility upgraded in the scheme was Girdwood Community Hub. It opened in 2016, combining community facilities, a dedicated youth space, leisure facilities and educational outreach and training facilities and had originally been developed with a grant related to the Peace Process. The replacement for the Brook Activity Centre and a new Andersonstown Leisure Centre followed (see 2020).

    Two long established centres were in the news in 2019. Dunstable Park Sports Centre (1974) and Rhyl Sun Centre (1980) were both replaced with modern centres. The new Dunstable Leisure Centre is home to a new Dunstable Library as well as a leisure centre with a 25m pool, 100-station health club, crèche, cafe and flexible spaces for community services. It did see the loss of a green bowls hall provided in the old centre (one of the sporting changes coming around in a number of new and refurbished centres). The Rhyl Sun Centre (1980) was an extremely innovative and iconic leisure attraction. It was an indoor waterpark with Europe’s first indoor surfing pool. When it opened it cost, then, £4M. It was a ‘tropical village’ with a monorail, slides, the surf and wave pools. The Centre was an asset to the communities of North Wales and also for tourism. A 2008 Report had estimated the Centre needed £11M to safeguard it. It closed quite suddenly in 2014 when the Council stopped its £200k annual subsidy. The building was demolished in 2016, by which time planning was in process for a replacement facility. Named appropriately SC2 and costing £15M, the new Rhyl waterpark is located on the promenade and stretches across 1200 sq.m. The new centre opened on April 12th, 2019. The project was mostly funded by Denbighshire County Council with Rhyl Town Council contributing £2M and the Welsh Government £800,000.

    At a cost of £40M, Chelmsford’s Riverside Leisure Centre is perhaps one of the most expensive centres in its era. Construction started in 2017, based on the original building, but the costs soared from £25M due to asbestos removal. The building is eco-friendly through its energy saving, BREEAM award, technology throughout. The facilities are extensive and embrace a 10-lane 25m pool with a moveable floor and adjustable barriers for division. It’s only one of three UK pools with those dimensions used for training and competition. There is a toddler-friendly sensory splash zone, a fun pool with a flume, a 130-station gym, health and fitness studios, soft play, an Ofsted-registered crèche, a cafe and a terrace overlooking the River Chelmer. The architects sought to use the centre building as a strong focal point to connect to the city centre and enhance the riverside walk. Despite Monmouth Leisure Centre only being two decades old, Monmouthshire County Council embarked on £7.4M scheme to revamp the Centre given changes in sports and leisure demand. Section 106 funding from a nearby housing project contributed half a million pounds. The Centre is adjacent to a school. The swimming pool element was nicknamed ‘the ship in a bottle’ conversion, as to meet funding limits a planned pool building was cancelled and it was decided to convert the existing sports hall into a 5-lane 25m x 11m swimming pool and a health spa – a UK first. The rest of the centre was completely remodeled – “a complex and complete strip out from top to bottom,” said the contractors. A three-floor extension houses a new vibrantly coloured soft play area and there is a fitness gym, two squash courts, a spin studio, a dance studio, toning suite, meeting rooms and cafe.

    2019 Sedbergh Sports and Leisure Centre

    Stafford Borough Council opened the new Stone Leisure Centre at Westbridge Park and next door to a new M&S store. It has the now familiar core mix of 25m pool, fitness gym and studios, but not a sports hall. The cost was £7.6M, partly funded by land sales. Slough’s new centre, The Centre, replaced the long established Montem Sports Centre, it has a huge 115-station gym and in keeping with so many new centre’s, three group fitness studios, a 25m 8-lane pool, a teaching pool with moveable floor, a 4-court sports hall, a sauna and steam room, two spa treatment rooms and a cafe. Bradford invested £17.5M in a centre, Sedbergh Sports and Leisure Centre. It replaced the nearby Richard Dunn Centre (1978) which had been named after ‘a local lad who made good’ – Richard Dunn, a heavyweight boxer who was British, European and Commonwealth champion and fought and lost to Muhammad Ali for the world title in 1976. The Richard Dunn building adjacent to the site remains disused at present. The centre, as elsewhere, has the usual mix of 25m pool, flexible teaching pool, studios, 80-station fitness gym, sports hall and cafe, plus 3 outdoor pitches.

    The New Barnet Leisure Centre and Barnet Copthall Leisure Centre amounted to a £44.9M investment by the London Borough of Barnet. The New Barnet centre, as a community hub, has what we have seen becoming the core pool package of 25m pool and learner pool, though no sports hall, but additionally it houses a library, spaces for children and young people and an outdoor multi-use games area. Barnet Copthall has two 25m pools. One is a 6-lane community pool and the other an 8-lane competition pool. Barnet Copthall also has studios and a 5-court sports hall. Saracens Rugby Club also use the Centre. The original Dover Sports Centre (1976) was closed in February 2019 as the new £26M Dover District Leisure Centre opened. ‘Dry’ facilities include a 4-court sports hall, 2 squash courts, multi-function room, exercise studios including spin cycling, 120-station gym, clip ‘n climb wall and café. It has a 25m 8-lane competition standard pool with seating for 250 and a 15m learner pool with moveable floor plus sauna and steam room and 2 outdoor 3G 5-a-side pitches. Sport England contributed £1.5M. In 2019 Coventry’s new £36.7M waterpark and leisure centre, Wave, replaced the City’s Grade II Listed 1966 50m international pool complex (see also 2020). Within its circular design the Wave waterpark has a wave pool with six thrilling slides, a splash pad with jets and small slides for toddlers and a ‘lazy river’. It also has a 25m swimming pool, gym, climbing wall, squash courts, dance studio plus, and poolside café. With its investment in the Alan Higgs Centre in 2020, the Council invested a total close to £50M in pool-based community facilities. The wavepool churns 20M litres of water every day and the building is illuminated at night. The Wave expects 1.3M annual visitors.

    Runnymede is best known for the sealing of the Magna Carta 800 years ago but in February 2019 Runnymede Borough Council opened Egham Orbit Leisure Centre and the following month the Duke of Kent performed the official opening. Orbit replaced Egham Sports Centre which closed shortly before Orbit opened and was subsequently demolished. Orbit has a sports hall, 25m 8-lane pool with moveable floor, Otium spa, 100-station gym, group exercise studios, soft play and cafe plus outdoor tennis and netball courts and 3G 5-a-side football pitches. We have seen Birmingham Council is implementing leisure centre developments. In 2019 it opened its fourth centre, the £8M Ladywood Leisure Centre, after Erdington, Northfield and Stechford. It has one of the largest public fitness gyms in the Midlands with 130 stations plus exercise studios, a 25m 8-lane pool, sauna steam-room and café. After 2 year’s construction, Test Valley Borough Council opened the new £16M Andover Leisure Centre on the site of the previous centre in early 2019. Yet again we see the same pool, fitness gym (165 stations), studio facilities and cafe as many of its contemporary centres. An important difference to many is the 8-court sports hall and Clip ‘n Climb installation.

    On the football scene. Burnley entered the leisure centre ‘premier league’ when Prime Minister Theresa May opened Burnley FC’s new £4.5M Leisure Box in 2019. The Leisure Box is Burnley and Pendle’s new community leisure facility, based at the iconic Northlight site in Brierfield. Operated by Burnley FC in the Community (Burnley FC’s official charity), it has seen the old warehouse section of the former Brierfield cotton mill transformed into a 133,000 square foot leisure facility. The Leisure Box was made possible thanks to investment from the Premier League, The FA and Government, through their charity, the Football Foundation. Burnley FC in the Community netted a £611,732 grant from the Football Foundation to support the internal fit-out of the facility. The works included the implementation of an indoor 40m x 30m third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP), a sports hall, cricket lanes, a gym, a café, classrooms, a youth club space and a dance studio. The Box provides brand sport, health and wellbeing opportunities for all sections of the community. Pendle Borough Council itself completed a refurbishment of Pendle Leisure Centre in 2019. The work, part-funded by Sport England’s Community Asset Fund, includes an extension to the gym, refurbishing the reception area and dryside changing facilities, replacing the sports hall floor, and updating the lighting.

    2019 Haverhill Sports Centre

    As we see with Burnley’s Leisure Box, the occasional innovative conversion can still arise. However, one of the UK’s most successful and long-lasting conversions is that of Jubilee Hall in London, operated by the Jubilee Trust. The Jubilee Hall was built in 1897 as part of London’s fruit and vegetable market. When the market left Covent Garden in 1974, local people campaigned to save Jubilee Hall to use as a low-cost community-based recreation facility. It became a successful central London centre from 1978, based on fitness gyms. It has developed as it has gone along. However, in 2019 the Trust agreed a £650K investment, including a £150,000 grant from the London Marathon, which enabled a remodeling of the Grade II listed building to maximise its triple height ceiling and natural light, and to create additional exercise spaces. A Les Mills immersive cycling studio and new community café were also added. The Jubilee Trust operates three other London health, fitness and sports centres in Hampstead, Southwark, and the Westminster gym in the Houses of Parliament (won on competitive tender). Haverhill Sports Centre was an early, pioneering joint provision centre in Suffolk. It was the brainchild of Sir John Hill, Chief Education Officer for West Suffolk County Council and opened on October 1st, 1971. It served the local community for nearly forty years until a £5.2M refurbishment (see 2009). 10 years later in 2019, under the leadership of St. Edmundsbury Borough Council, a further refit costing £1.5M was completed. The gym was extended, and a new studio space added. Alongside, the Samuel Ward Academy sports hall was enhanced and linked through a community use agreement.

    Wychavon District Council’s Evesham Leisure Centre (first opened in 2009) had an extension and refurbishment and was re-opened in January 2019 by local Paralympian Rebecca Redfern. The £3M project saw the fitness gym extended, and provided two new exercise studios, a treatment suite, meeting rooms and made other improvements. It brought the overall investment in the site to £13M. Leiston Leisure Centre was redeveloped in two phases by East Suffolk Council in 2019, following Deben Leisure Centre’s refurbishment in September 2018. The work builds on the Council’s 2014 Leisure Strategy to invest £10M in centres. Waveney Valley Leisure Centre, Bungay, and Lowestoft’s Waterlane Leisure Centre were to follow in subsequent years. The new and improved Leiston Centre opened fully in August 2019 after undergoing a £4 million redevelopment. The redevelopment is a good example of the scope of many refurbishments and was completed over two phases, with Phase One reopening in June 2019 and Phase Two reopening in August 2019. Phase One included the swimming pool, which had many improvements, including new lighting and retiling of the pool surround, and a new addition – a thermal suite with a sauna and steam room, feature shower and relaxation area. The reception area was rebuilt with an enhanced view of the pool and an enlarged soft play area. Phase Two included a new spacious fitness suite, two new dance studios and a cycling studio, as well as improvements to the squash courts and the sports hall. A major £11M project led by Bath & North Somerset Council to transform the ageing Keynsham Leisure Centre began in May 2018 and was fully completed by September 2019. The squash courts, sports hall, main pool hall and 60-station gym were refurbished, and a new teaching pool added. The council secured £500,000 of funding towards the project from the National Lottery through a bid to the Strategic Facilities Fund, which is administered by Sport England.

    Northumberland County Council’s Wentworth Leisure Centre in Hexham completed refurbishments with a greatly enhanced gym and a newly designed modern reception and café and the conversion of the bowls hall. The project cost £698,000 and was financed by Northumberland County Council as part of ambitious £65m county-wide investments to upgrade and transform sport and leisure facilities. The centre now boasts one of the best gyms in the North-East with upgraded changing rooms. Allerdale Council’s Keswick Leisure Pool had a £180,000 overall gym refurbishment completed in early 2019.

2019:  View pictures below of Monmouth Leisure Centre, left to right, click to enlarge for captions.

  1. 2020

    2020 Alan Higgs Centre

    The Alan Higgs Centre in Coventry had originally opened in 2004 to provide much needed sports and leisure facilities in the south-east of the city. It is situated in 80-acre grounds, near to the River Sowe. Built at a cost of about £8 million to the owner, the Alan Higgs Centre Trust. The funds were provided by the Alan Edward Higgs Charity. The new centre at that time specialized in football and other outdoor sports. Since then, it has been used by many and is an extremely popular sports venue in the city. By 2020 at over 15 years old, the centre received the refresh it deserved. The centre had some serious investment from Coventry City Council and Sport England. £13.5 million was spent updating the Centre.

    2020 Alan Higgs Centre

    In February 2020 a new Olympic-sized swimming opened, ‘replacing’ the international pool at the defunct Coventry Sports & Leisure Centre. Special features of the pool include a moving floor that can be raised to deck level or lowered to two metres. The pool can be divided into smaller sections using a boom, making it suitable for all events including swimming lessons and galas while also being suitable for swimmers of all ages and abilities. It has a pool pod to hoist users with disabilities and is a fully accredited ‘Changing Places’ facility. The new pool facilities include a hot tub, a sauna, and seating for 500 people. As well as the pool, the Centre now has a sports hall and health and fitness suite, function rooms and café, making it a major marque City leisure centre.


    The new Britannia Leisure Centre in Hoxton, in the London Borough of Hackney, opened in June 2020. It is described as part of the biggest public sector investment in the area in a generation and one of London’s best leisure centres. Like a number of major leisure developments, the centre opened alongside a new school (City of London Academy Shoreditch Park) and residential properties as the first phase of a wider £384M regeneration project. The plans included demolishing and replacing the old Britannia centre. Inevitably such a grandiose scheme had local antagonists and protagonists.

    2020 Britannia Leisure Centre

    2020 Britannia Leisure Centre

    The Centre is on 4 floors with – a 6 lane 25m pool and 20m x 10m training pool, both with moveable floors; sauna and steamroom; a water flume, paddling pool and ‘leisure water’ with splash pad for children and families; a 6-court sports hall; 4 squash courts; a fitness suite, cycle zone and exercise studios; a series of facilities for those with disabilities, intriguingly 2 rooftop 5-a-side football pitches and 2 tennis courts; and  a cafe, crèche and soft play area. Summer opening of the Centre saw under 16s given free flume rides for a period. The new centre was developed directly by Hackney Council through its in-house, not-for-profit building programme.

    Broughton Astley Leisure Centre opened in February 2020, providing a ‘dry’ centre with a 4-court sports hall, 63-station gym, 2 group exercise studios and an outdoor 3G pitch. The development, costing £3.6M, is a partnership between Parkwood Leisure Ltd and Broughton Astley Parish Council. Broughton Astley is a large village in the Harborough district of Leicestershire. Funding for the centre is largely from a Section 106 agreement and a Football Foundation grant. There is no District Council funding in the Project. Both the general public and local schools use the Centre. In 2020 a £38M Llys Cadwyn town centre redevelopment produced a new leisure facility for Pontypridd. It replaced a long defunct shopping centre. One of the three new principal buildings is a library, leisure & fitness centre and council customer service point. Llys Cadwyn Leisure for Life has a sophisticated 80-station fitness gym, spin and class studios. it complements sports halls and swimming pools at other locations.

    2020 Andersonstown Leisure Centre

    Three developments in Northern Ireland in 2020 were firstly, Belfast’s Brook Leisure Centre, officially opened in January 2020 and based on the Brook Activity Centre, with a 60-station fitness gym, 25m 4-lane, studio and outdoor pitches. Secondly, Mid Ulster Council’s Dungannon Leisure Centre opened with a 60-station gym, a sports hall and multi-purpose room, and a 4-lane pool that can be turned into a sensory pool, the first in Northern Ireland. Dungannon’s was an extensive £1.8M refurbishment with new gym equipment and all other facilities upgraded. Thirdly, the new £25M Andersonstown Leisure Centre opened in 2020 as part of Belfast’s transformation plans. The original Andersonstown Sports Centre had been opened in 1979. The new centre has family fun leisure water; 25m 6-lane pool, learner pool and confidence water for young children; 140-station gym, exercise and spin studios, multi-purpose room, cafe and outdoor 5-a-side pitches.

    2020 Alton Sports Centre

    The £20M Alton Sports Centre replaced an early centre (1972). Besides a 6-lane competition pool and learner pool with the almost de rigueur learner pool with moveable floor, there is also a 130-station gym, a spa, 6-court sports hall, cycling studio and two multi use studios, two glass-back squash courts, a Clip ‘n Climb wall, a 100-seater cafe, a crèche and two outdoor 3G 5-a-side pitches. Alton is a very good example of the full menu of modern facilities being included in full or part in 21st century centres. The Bulmershe Sports Centre in Berkshire in 1971 was an early example of how designing for a school site burgeoned into community provision. Woodley Town Council had been running the centre until Wokingham Borough Council took over and refurbished it at a cost of £400,000 in 2014, but it was demolished in 2018 after asbestos was discovered.

    2020 Bulmershe Leisure Centre

    The new Bulmershe Leisure Centre opened in 2020 with a 6-lane pool 25m pool, teaching pool, 75-station health club, two studios, a sports hall and cafe.

    Another Berkshire centre opened in 2020 – Braywick Leisure Centre in Maidenhead. This has a 10-lane 25m pool with slide, a training pool and children’s splash water. The gym has 200 stations and there is a separate health suite and 3 studios, including for dance and cycling and four ‘flexible space’ squash courts. Outdoor facilities include a floodlit 3G pitch. The design is seen as futuristic with an indoor street and winter garden running through the spine of the building. It is a massive £33M investment by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. Topping the cost of Maidenhead is another major civic building opened in Craigavon in 2020. Costing Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council £37M, the scale of Craigavon’s new South Lake Leisure Centre probably sets it apart from others in Northern Ireland and many in the rest of the U.K. Building started in 2018 and created 500 jobs on site during construction. It is sited at the existing Watersports Centre adjacent to the Civic & Conference Centre overlooking the lake. It has three floors accommodating an impressive 8-lane 50m international standard pool with moveable floor and 300 spectator seats, a teaching pool, a fun pool and spectator gallery. Its Cafe incredABLE@SouthLake occupies a prominent position on the ground floor. It’s fitness gym, claimed to be the largest in NI or the Republic, covers 1000 sq.m. and has the latest hi-tec equipment. There is also a range of studios including for spin cycling and dance and a sensory room. The sports hall is 8 badminton court size alongside 2 squash courts and a soft play space.

    The new Ingleby Barwick Leisure Centre in Stockton-on-Tees, a town long associated with sports centres, opened in August 2020 at a cost of £10M. Ingleby Barwick is a small town in Stockton Borough. The Centre has the now conventional package of pools, fitness suite and exercise studios, plus a community library and Council customer service point. Before 2005 Ingleby had no parks and no amenities and efforts to get a leisure centre with pool started in 2009. Addington Leisure and Community Centre is Croydon’s latest centre and is linked to housing development. Built at a cost of £25M (it had risen by £8M from the outset of the scheme) it has a 4-court sports hall, 25m 6-lane pool and a learner pool, a fitness gym, studio a large community centre with two halls, and a crèche and cafe. It is one of the new centres to be cashless. From 1974 Plumstead Sports Centre was a converted disused transport depot next door to swimming baths. This was a far cry from the new, Royal Borough of Greenwich’s Plumstead Leisure Centre costing £11.8M and opened in 2020. The new centre is a multi-functional cultural and sports centre, combining a refurbished Grade II library building with a new leisure centre housing hi-tech gym and fitness and dance studios, a badminton court, community rooms and a cafe. It is another cashless operation.

    2020 Market Rasen Leisure Centre

    Market Rasen with a population of 3,200 in West Lindsey District Council welcomed a new centre in mid-2020. Market Rasen Leisure Centre was built at a cost of £6.3M providing the local community with a 40-station gym, fitness and dance studios, 4-court sports hall and event space plus a 3G football pitch. A pool was not considered financially viable in all the circumstances. Berwick Leisure Centre is a major £26M development by Northumberland County Council. A 25m 5-lane pool, teaching pool, leisure pool, spa and large fitness gym, are due to open in the summer of 2021 and a second phase with sports hall, indoor bowls hall, a sensory room and an outdoor 3G full size pitch in 2022.

    2020 Market Rasen

    Ponteland had an unusual and very early sports hall development as we recorded in 1967 (Chapter 2). A new sports and leisure complex now forms part of Northumberland County Council’s £46M education and leisure development, which has seen the existing leisure centre close and Ponteland Leisure Centre and two school facilities – secondary and primary/nursery – all open in 2021. The Centre has a 4-court sports hall with cricket nets, Clip ‘n Climb facility, a Tranquility Spa, a soft play area and the Hive Sports Bar. Outside there are sports fields, 2 multi-sports and a full-size 3G pitch. The location of the Centre virtually makes it a dual use provision for community and school.

    2020 York LNER Stadium

    2020  York Stadium Pool

    Several, of the larger local authorities have been very ambitious and innovative with partnerships to develop more original leisure developments. We have recorded some other similar original developments, including Ravenscraig (2010), XC Hemel Hempstead (2011), Bangor Aurora (2013), and Derby Arena (2015). York City Council fitted that mould in developing and opening in 2021 its £41M York LNER Community Stadium. The Stadium itself opened in May 2021 with a pandemic limited 1,000 spectators watching York City Knights play Oldham in the Rugby League Football Championship. It also follows the trend of combining several community services together. As with such major projects there was some uncertainty and objections. One objector said there was more chance of him playing centre forward for Man City than the stadium happening. However, a York City FC supporter for 70 years, said he thought he would never see the day and thought it was superb. It is located in the Huntington area of the city. It is also an unusual complex with a combination of sporting, health and educational facilities. Besides the 8,500-seater stadium for York City FC and York City Knights RLFC, there are new swimming facilities, a gym, dance studio and sports hall with spectator seating. On the site is a new 13 screen IMAX cinema, Hollywood Bowl, retail and restaurant outlets, and a community hub including library, NHS outpatient clinic offering several specialist services, and community offices for the two stadium clubs.

    2020 Newcastle Baths

    Opening in December 2020 Whitehill & Bordon Leisure Centre (£10M) marked the end of East Hampshire Council’s £30M revamp of sport and leisure provision (including Alton). The Council struck a deal with its leisure operator for Whitehill for the whole Council investment to be paid back over the lifetime of the 20-year operational contract. The Centre comprises a 6-lane 25m pool, teaching pool, an 80-station fitness gym, a large exercise studio and cycle spin room. The official opening of the ‘new’ Greig Leisure Centre in Alcester by Stratford-on-Avon District Council arose from the Council acquiring the 1958 centre from the Greig Trustees and carrying out a refurbishment. It has a 4-court sports hall, ‘Lifestyles’ gym & studio, two squash courts, and dance studio, and multi-purpose rooms. Whilst a vast number of old Baths have ‘bitten the dust’ over the years, we have recorded some being saved and re-purposed. The Grade II Newcastle City Baths (pool and Turkish baths built in 1928 and closed in 2013) were re-opened in January 2020 after a £7.5M project involving an architectural plan and led by Fusion Lifestyle who had taken a lease on the building. Besides the pool there is a gym, sauna and fitness studio. Urmston Leisure Centre in Trafford received investment of £7M and was renamed Move Urmston. Whilst retaining the bulk of the building the changes were significant. A new glass frontage enhanced the building and a new double height lounge cafe added at the front with 100 seats. Large coloured pods either side provide for new activity studios and a clip ‘n climb wall installed. It also has the 25m L-shaped pool and 5-court sports hall.

    St. Helens Council’s Selwyn Jones Leisure Centre in Newton-le-Willows re-opened after a £4.2M modernisation of what was a tired 1990s building. Re-purposing the sports hall, as Billingham Forum did, saw half of the sports hall converted with a mezzanine floor to take a 90-station gym and spin studio, with the other half facilitating a new adventure play area for under-11s and three party rooms. A grant of £335,000 via Sport England improved access to the swimming pool and gym for those with disabilities, plus a new changing village was installed. All other areas were renovated, including the café and reception area. Extensive work on mechanical, electrical and plant services was also undertaken to significantly extend the life of the Centre. Some other leisure centres refurbished in 2020 included: – Kingfisher LC, Sudbury – Babergh DC (£2.4M); Waveney Valley LC, East Suffolk (£3.4M); Waterfront LC, RB of Greenwich (£1.4M); and Chesham LC and Chalfont LC, Buckinghamshire (£4M).

2020:  View pictures below of  Ponteland Leisure Centre, left to right, click to enlarge for captions.

  1. 2021

    In many cases new centres under construction and planned for opening in 2020, 2021 and 2022 were delayed by the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on building work, just as the operation of existing centres was affected by closure.

    2021 Harrow Lodge Leisure Centre

    Harrow Lodge Leisure Centre in Harrow Lodge Park in Hornchurch was another new development by Havering Council that opened in 2021 costing £23M and replacing Hornchurch Sports Centre which was demolished in 2020. Historically the original Hornchurch Swimming Pool was, in 1956, the first new pool to be built in the UK after the 2nd World War. It was also built in Harrow Lodge Park. For a long period after the war efforts and materials were concentrated on re-building bomb damaged properties. A new trend whereby an operating trust, as part of its contractual agreement, has the centre partly named after the trust is exemplified by the operating trust Places for People with the ‘Places Leisure Camberley’ title for this new Surrey centre (see also 2017 ‘Places Eastleigh’}. The £22M centre opened its doors for the first time in mid-2021 after an 18-month contract on the former Arena Centre site. A 160-station gym is a key feature alongside an increasingly similar mix of cycling studio, three group exercise studios and a hot yoga studio, two swimming pools (6-lane 25m main pool and 20m training pool with moveable floor), plus salt room, sauna, steam rooms, soft play, climbing wall, 8-court sports hall and cafe.

    2021 Winchester Sport Leisure Park

    The new and much vaunted Winchester Sport & Leisure Park, which replaced River Park Leisure Centre, opened for the first time in May 2021. The title reflects its parkland location created on an undeveloped site in Bar End and under construction since March 2019. It cost close to £40M and offers an iconic set of new major city leisure facilities and extends to a huge 200-station gym, cycling studio, 8-lane 50m pool, teaching pool and splash pad as well as a hydrotherapy centre, two large group exercise studios, Sparx beauty rooms, sports hall, a Top Rock climbing walls (14 lines 9m high), four squash courts, cafe and outdoor terrace. Winchester City Council has agreed with its operator that the cost of the Centre will be repaid over the length of a long contract, similar to the Whitehill & Bordon Centre arrangement (see 2020).

    2021 Winchester Sport Leisure Park

    On stream to open by the end of 2021 is Exeter’s ‘Passivhaus standard’ £44M St. Sidwell’s Point Leisure Centre. The Centre is part of a £52M plus development for the Centre and adjoining a new bus station, which itself is part of a wider £300M town centre regeneration package. The bus station opened in July and the Centre is due to open by the end of 2021. St. Sidwell’s has extensive facilities, amongst the very best in the country. It has an 8-lane 25m pool; 4-lane learner pool (both pools have moveable floors); 150 station gym; spin studio; 2 exercise studios; multi-purpose room/crèche and a spa (sauna/saunarium/salt vaporium/relaxation room/manicure-pedicure station and 4 treatment rooms). It is the first UK centre designed to Passivhaus certified standard (Essentially, by definition, “a Passivhaus is a building for which thermal comfort can be achieved solely by post-heating or post- cooling of the fresh air mass, which is required to achieve sufficient indoor air conditions quality – without the need for additional recirculation of air”). There is a national certification system for Passivhaus). To this end the Centre has also involved important design issues such as the orientation of the building, installing glazing for solar gain, and unusually, installing brise-soleil internally rather than externally. It is expected that it will save 70% in energy costs, some £220,000 a year, in comparison with a conventional pool. This will be a centre operation observed for years to come.

    2021 St. Sidwells Point Leisure Centre

    2021 Aspire@ThePark

    Wakefield Council’s new £20.8M Pontefract leisure centre named Aspire@ThePark opened in mid-2021 to serve the five towns surrounding Wakefield city. It was supported by a Sport England grant. It has a 100-station fitness gym, a multi-use studio, a spin studio, and swimming pools [10 lane 25m pool; studio pool and splash zone], and a climbing zone. Outdoors it has tennis courts and a full-size 4G Pitch.

    2021 Northern Gateway

    Colchester Borough Council’s £28.8M Northern Gateway Sports Park is an impressive and major 76-acre development that opened in April 2021. Conveniently located off Junction 28 of the A12 it provides a 5-court sports hall, indoor cricket spaces, a health and fitness club with gym, exercise studios and an inter-active cycling studio. Outdoors there is a one-mile floodlit cycling track, 2 ATP football pitches, archery range, a learn to ride track and a cyclo-cross track plus grass rugby pitches. It is the new home for Colchester Rugby Football Club. An archery range and clubhouse has been provided and will be the home of Colchester & District Archery Club. The Park received a £100,000 injection from the England & Wales Cricket Board towards indoor cricket and £590,000 from the British Cycling/Sport England ‘Places to Ride’ scheme. Woking Borough Council’s £26M Eastwood Leisure Centre in Sheerwater opened beside the Bishop David Brown School, which has shared use of the Centre. It offers a 25m pool, a teaching pool with moveable floor, a 5-court sports hall with dividing wall, fitness gym, studios, sauna and steam room and outside – a 3G football pitch (home for Sheerwater FC), several grass pitches, 5 tennis courts and four netball courts, a rugby pitch and cricket nets. It also has amulet-function room with bar for sports teams. The project required some demolition of school music and dining rooms, which were replaced in a remodeling of the school. The Centre is part of the Sheerwater Regeneration Project which is adding hundreds of homes to the estate.

    Kirklees Council’s £15M Spen Valley Leisure Centre in Spenborough opened in September 2021. The previous centre had served the community well since it was initially opened as a swimming pool in 1969 and was extended over the years with a separate building for a fitness suite. The new Centre includes: an 8-lane 25m main pool and 20m x 10m activity pool with moveable floor and spectator seating; a large fitness suite and 2 flexible fitness studios, a cycling studio, and two changing villages which include family cubicles, baby change, large team changing areas. St. Albans City and District Council’s new Harpenden Leisure Centre, a major development based on the existing centre pool, is another centre project that is part of a bigger regeneration scheme for a town. The scheme uses the existing leisure centre as basis for two new facilities. The first building project, the newly developed Leisure Centre, sees the refurbishment of the existing 25m main pool, and provision of a large extension to increase the leisure offering, with a new 17-metre-long training pool with moveable floor, a sports hall, a 100-station fitness gym with spectacular views of Rothamsted Park, cycle spinning and dance studios, a steam room, sauna and new reception area and outdoors, a MUGA and other courts. The second building within the scheme is the conversion of the previous sports hall, creating a cultural centre for Harpenden, to be named the Eric Morecambe Centre, has a 511-seat theatre with balcony viewing, museum space and meetings rooms. A new 100-space car park and a revitalized, landscaped public realm also forms part of the overall scheme. The scheme cost in excess of £20M.

    2021 Avoniel Leisure Centre

    Belfast’s Avoniel Leisure Centre redevelopment was completed in 2021 and focused on creating outdoor leisure provision. It was an £8million investment into the East Belfast site in order to address a lack of pitches in the area for local teams. It provides seven 3G pitches (a size range from 5-a-side to 7-a-side and full size), covered seating for 240, two studios and two meeting rooms. 2021 saw the fruition of plans drawn up by the new West Suffolk Council, which had been created in 2019 by the merger of St. Edmundsbury Council and Forest Heath District Council. It thus inherited a number of leisure centres, including Haverhill (See 2009) and Brandon Leisure Centre and Newmarket Leisure Centre. It also inherited the plans for a Mildenhall Hub. Brandon and Newmarket were also part of the new County Council’s Leisure Investment Fund. In 2019 Haverhill (see 2009) received a further investment of £1.6M to its previous refurbishment in partnership with the on-site Samuel Ward Academy. Half the 8-court sports hall was resurfaced for community activities. Other spaces were re-purposed for climbing and a wellness suite. The gym and cafe were upgraded. This investment reduced the operator’s management fee. By 2020 both had re-opened – Newmarket (£1.8M) with a superb, adventurous soft play, and Brandon (£1.9M) with a new studio and all-round improvements including the cafe.

    2021 The Hub – Mildenhall Leisure Centre

    The £39M Mildenhall Hub is a new development in Suffolk. Mildenhall is most famous as an RAF and US Airforce base. The Hub includes Mildenhall Leisure Centre and was opened by Suffolk County Council and West Suffolk Council in 2021. It was supported by a £2M National Lottery grant and is recognised by the Government’s National One Public Estate Programme. It had funding from the two Councils, the Department of Education, the Academy Transformation Trust, Sport England and Suffolk Police. It brings together a number of different services – education, leisure, library and health – on one site. A new Mildenhall College Academy building opened for 1,500 students in June and the library serves the town. The Hub also has a pre-school, health centre, children’s centre, citizens advice, office space for the NHS, police, and both Suffolk County Council and West Suffolk Council. The leisure centre included in this ground-breaking Hub offers a 25m six-lane pool and a teaching pool with adjustable floor; 100-station gym; 4-court sports hall; two fitness studios and a 3G outdoor artificial pitch.

    Whilst major leisure centres can form part of a leisure provision strategy, there is a developing trend to also create smaller community hubs offering some leisure facilities alongside other services, often as ‘in-fills’ between major centres. Warrington Borough Council’s £16M Bewsey and Dallam Community Hub is a good example, opened in 2021. The hub will provide much needed community and wellbeing facilities for the two suburbs of Warrington and links fitness, learning and healthcare. It is located opposite existing playing fields and next to an existing children’s play area and is placed between Bewsey and Dallam with a view to serving both communities. The Community Hub comprises dementia friendly facilities including: a reception/social area and library facilities designed for self-service with ICT provision (+ Wi-Fi enabled devices); a multi-use learner/hydrotherapy pool (10m x 7m), A dedicated 33-station fitness suite, a studio/multi-activity space for group fitness classes, a range of LiveWire lifestyle services and shared office space for key public service partners.

    Stockton Splash appeared in our 2001 and 2009 commentaries and reappears in 2021 as new plans for Stockton, including a new Council HQ, will see the Splash close and replaced by a £15M leisure park on the southern end of the High Street. There were also a number of significant leisure centre refurbishments which re-opened in 2021. Northumberland County Council’s Blyth Sports Centre underwent a major £5M facelift to improve sports and leisure facilities and create a wellness hub for the local community. The work included the creation of a new state of the art gym and fitness area, and two new fitness studios. There are also new spa facilities and new wet and dry changing rooms, a dedicated cycling studio, a new and improved soft play experience and an extended cafe offer, while a re-designed modern and welcoming reception area improves the customer experience. The indoor bowls hall were lost as part of the re-development. There are also new classrooms for the County Council’s Learning & Skills Service to provide a range of learning opportunities for the local community. Other refurbishment projects undertaken for 2021 include: – Halesowen Leisure Centre (Dudley Council) – with a new-look entrance, adventure play area and café; and Stourbridge’s Crystal Leisure Centre (also Dudley Council) received a series of improvements to the pool and slides at a cost of £800,000. Cricklade Leisure Centre – a £2.5M project by Wiltshire County Council and Cricklade Town Council. East Suffolk Council refurbished Lowestoft’s Waterlane Leisure Centre (£1M) (see Waterlane 2015 also).

2021:  View pictures below of  Blyth Sports Centre, left to right, click to enlarge for captions.

2022-2024 +
2022 onwards – new centres under consideration, planned or under construction include:
Abraham Moss, Manchester


Bishop Auckland










Grange Paddocks, Bishops Stortford





Kirkby-in- Ashfield


Marina, Great Yarmouth



North Devon



Thorne, Doncaster

White Oak, Swanley

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