As the £24 billion London Olympics continues to dominate the headlines, UK leisure attention is already refocusing on grass roots sport, where funding concerns remain heightened.
A report by the Local Government Association warns that there will be severe cuts in non-statutory services by 2020 – but it is not all bad news. Sophisticated swimming pool design continues to deliver cost-savings while offering the potential for increased income generation by attracting more visitors – particularly the young – into the water.
S & P has been designing high-quality swimming pools for more than 30 years and has offices in Dublin, Nottingham, Glasgow and London. “Today’s sports establishments have to be attractive to youngsters,” says Keith.
“They want high ropes, climbing equipment and challenges to keep them coming through the door, as well as good pools. “You only have to look at the successful venues – such as the K2 Crawley – to see increasing numbers coming through the doors. Everything has to be on offer so that you keep attracting those people and peer pressure will keep the numbers up at those venues.”
Regarded as probably the most successful venue in the UK; the K2 Crawley, in West Sussex is a state-of-the art leisure centre which opened in November 2005 and is operated by Freedom Leisure on behalf of Crawley Borough Council. There are more than 40 sports and activities on offer at K2 Crawley. The centre houses a 50m swimming pool, leisure pool, 12 court multi-purpose sports hall, health and fitness suite, 12m climbing wall, five squash courts, dedicated gymnastics training hall, indoor bowls, martial arts and athletics facility.
The 50m pool provides flexible swimming for both public and competitive sessions and includes a range of diver training. The pool hall also has a dedicated learner pool and spectator seating for 400 people.
The UKA certified 400m athletics track can hold county standard outdoor track and field competitions. The centre also includes access to external multi-user games areas (MUGA’s) and a synthetic pitch. Chris Lovelock, Centre Manager of K2 Crawley, says: “The Olympics is undoubtedly raising awareness and enthusiasm for many different sports, which in turn is encouraging people to get involved and be active. “Even a well-established facility will find there are parts of the community it is yet to reach and Olympic-related activity helps to raise the profile of that venue and attract more people to it.”
UK swimming pool venues are also being boosted from the drive by the government to push forward the health benefits of swimming and sport. Last, but by no means least, lottery funding, that was diverted to help fund the London Games, will soon start filtering back to local projects.
“We know there is a big squeeze all round on local authority funding but in the future, the trend is likely to be towards consolidating ageing facilities,” says Keith Ashton, CEO of S&P Architects – the UK’s leading swimming pool designers.
“We may get fewer facilities – but of much better quality,” adds Keith who predicts one of the big post Olympic differences, in the pool sector, are the number of new 50m pools – 12 since the London Olympic bid was announced in 2005 – 11 of them designed by S&P.
Keith believes another boost will see a ‘spike’ in attendance at local authority swimming pools across the UK, for at least three to four weeks after the Games, in some cases, leading to increased use of pools over a much longer period. “It’s a bit like Wimbledon and the increase in tennis coaching immediately afterwards,” says Keith.
“The same will go for a lot of other sports after the Games are over. “The important thing for local authority pools is that they are part of a greater experience – especially if they are part of a leisure complex offering a variety of challenges for young people.”
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