Freedom Leisure is fast becoming one of the UK’s leading operators of leisure facilities, following a 150 per cent growth in the last 18 months.
In 2014, Freedom Leisure had 30 centres within its portfolio, compared to the 75 it operates today. This will expand even further in January next year with the addition of the new Perdiswell Leisure Centre, which will provide improved health, fitness and leisure services for in the city of Worcester.
“Looking to the future developing inclusive centres is also a huge priority for us. We will be looking at access, programming and how we can support all those wishing to participate in activities at our centres,” says Alyson Zell, Business Aquatic Manager for Freedom Leisure.
“It is an exciting time for us as we move into new regions working with new partners and teams to deliver a bespoke leisure service for the local community.”
She adds: “We are also investing in energy efficiency projects to reduce our carbon footprint and manage costs to further enable the reinvestment in facilities.”
Established in April 2002 as a not for profit leisure trust, Freedom Leisure initially ran four centres on behalf of Wealden District Council. Since then the company has enjoyed considerable growth and now manages facilities on behalf of 15 local authorities and five charities and trusts.
“Customer retention remains a significant challenge for the industry and at Freedom Leisure we work hard to provide customer choice and to market and promote our products and services to a wide audience,” reveals Alyson.
“We want to provide everyone with the means to achieve their goals whatever they may be from getting fitter to learning to swim.”
Freedom Leisure employs more than 3,000 staff members across the group and is headed up by Managing Director Ivan Horsfall-Turner. Last year Freedom Leisure welcomed in excess of 11 million visitors at its centres.
Alyson adds: “The challenges are to be able to provide a quality customer experience while still maintaining control over costs. Improving customer choice for participation and provide a professional workforce.
“The new living wage will impact on costs as do fluctuations in utility costs. Our aim is to minimise the challenges and provide the consistently high quality service.”
42 of Freedom Leisure centres include swimming facilities and the company delivers a comprehensive swim school at 40 of these.
Of those, Guildford Spectrum in Surrey is the flagship site. The centre has a complex of four pools including a leisure pool, a 25m competition pool as well as diver and learner pools with a variety of sessions for beginners and serious swimmers and divers.
Freedom Leisure are developing pathways in partnership with Guildford City Swim Club to ensure that all swimming is catered for from baby splash to competitive swimming. For those swimmers who want a different challenge the Rookie Lifesaving course can lead to employment as lifeguards or with additional training a career in swimming teaching.
The centre hosts a yearly programme of training courses to support the continued development of our swim teaching team. A recent development is the introduction of the Home School Learn to Swim Programme as well as extending the school swimming delivery.
“With the continued reported decline in swimming, we are constantly identifying programme activities such as Swimfit, or aquatic fitness classes and striving to enhance the customer journey to support participation at all levels,” says Alyson.
“Promoting aquatic fitness activities to our gym members also supports a more comprehensive service for our members.” This year Freedom Leisure is taking part in the ASA Dementia Friendly Swimming Pilot Project at K2 Crawley and Woking. It has also made a commitment to developing Dementia Friendly Employees across the whole group.
Alyson adds: “We are committed to providing and developing inclusive leisure facilities for everyone and delivering a service to exceed our customers’ expectations.
“We also want to create an environment that makes us good and fun to work for, and that, in turn, helps us recruit and retain the very best staff.”
Tel. 01825 880260