I was appointed to be the first manager of the new Bracknell Sports Centre in 1966. The building complex was located alongside the existing athletic track.
I had been a physical training instructor during my National Service from 1949-51, then worked for the Bahrain Petroleum company, the Outward Bound Trust as an instructor and then became the first Recreational Facilities Manager for Swansea University from 1959-66.
The Bracknell Centre was initiated by Easthampstead Rural District Council (later Bracknell Forest District Council) and was one of the first local authorities to provide a community indoor sports centre. During the period of construction, and particularly the following year, a financial squeeze meant that all local authority schemes had to be government-approved through a loan sanctions procedure.
The indoor sports building was located alongside the existing athletic track. The design of the centre was basic and very practical and greatly influenced by Harlow. The sports hall was a 2-court hall (2 basketball court size) and the walls were wood panelled, which proved to be very durable and required very little maintenance. There were also 4 squash courts, a small hall, missile gallery, committee rooms, a bar and changing rooms.
Whilst conceived as a sports centre it soon became clear that, because there was no civic centre where social events could be held, the centre would fulfil a wider ‘leisure’ role. It responded with not only sports opportunities but special events and social functions to serve the community. As experienced by other centres later, the non-sporting events filled gaps in the early days, but later, with increasing demand for sport, programming conflicts arose.
The design of the centre was basic and very practical and greatly influenced by Harlow. The sports hall was a 2-court hall (2 basketball court size) and the walls were wood panelled, which proved to be very durable and required very little maintenance. There were also 4 squash courts, a small hall, missile gallery, committee rooms, a bar and changing rooms.
Bracknell. Like the other early centres, provided fresh sporting opportunities and Bracknell hosted many international basketball matches and televised table tennis tournaments. The LTA presented a Kings Cup tennis between England and Switzerland.
Community influences on the sports hall programme meant that besides badminton, five-a-side football, basketball, and roller skating and indoor athletics, a wide range of non-sporting events were hosted including conferences, dinners, dog shows and election counts. Consequently, the range of uses influenced the equipment resources. So, foldaway stage units, wheel-away table tennis tables and portable landing areas were important, as was ‘mood’ lighting for social events.
Like Harlow, Bracknell received a lot of interest from other local authorities, and together with Harlow had much to do with the surge of centres that came later in the 1970s. A swimming pool was added in 1973.
I was also a founder member of the Association of Recreation Managers. I remained at Bracknell until 1974, when I became Director of Leisure at Dacorum District Council.
Updated – verified May 2017