Leisure review is a huge opportunity
- Credit: Archant
IT seems surprising sports and leisure facilities built around 30 years ago could already be past their sell-by date.
Some public buildings last a lifetime and are cherished, still used, adapted and updated. Others – County Hall and Ipswich Borough Council’s old HQ, for example – are abandoned, no longer fit for modern purposes, too small, too inefficient, too expensive to run.
Sports facilities don’t last, it appears, for another reason – changing trends and tastes can lead to their downfall.
Sport, keeping fit and being healthy is big business with people regularly attending gyms, a variety of leisure facilities, and willing to pay for top-quality equipment, hi-tech sports clothes and so on.
However, what some buildings currently offer often doesn’t match the public’s aspirations.
Instead of a sports centre people might visit for one activity once a week, what is needed – indeed what it is possible to create – is a centre people might spend all morning at.
A centre where the family might swim, children then go off to the climbing wall, dad to the gym and mum to the sauna, and then lunch followed by another modern activity. A vibrant flexible space which people enjoy visiting several times a week for different reasons.
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Suffolk Coastal is to embark on a strategic review of sports and leisure facilities and it could mean some massive changes ahead.
Key to this will be to find a partner company that will develop the facilities, with support from the council and finance from itself and a range of grant-giving bodies, and make a handsome profit out of it.
Councillors have seen that now is the time to act because the industry is reaching its peak.
Indications are that some of the buildings may go to make way for new state-of-the-art ones – if the right plans can be found.
Councillors are calling for a bold, imaginative and exciting vision to improve facilities – not just more of the same in nicer buildings. Too right. There may be no firm plans yet but this is a superb opportunity we must all get behind.