Odeon site set for new leisure complex

IPSWICH'S former Odeon cinema is set to be transformed into a 21st century entertainment centre for the whole family, the Evening Star can reveal today.

IPSWICH'S former Odeon cinema is set to be transformed into a 21st century entertainment centre for the whole family, the Evening Star can reveal today.

A multi-million pound transformation of the town centre building will bring in an eight-lane bowling alley, family restaurants, bars and music areas.

Its developers are also proposing to install a sports bar which will show events on big screens and with pool tables, and two music venues on the top floor - one aimed at younger clubbers and the other at a more mature audience.

A new company, Premier Leisure (Ipswich) Ltd, was incorporated on June 12 to develop the Odeon and hope to complete the work by the middle of 2007.

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It is planning to spend £2.7 million on gutting the interior of the building and transforming it into a leisure palace offering something for everyone from under eight to over 65.

Director Barry Welbourn said: “We really are aiming to provide something that will appeal to all ages.

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“On the ground floor we will have the bowling lanes - very much based on American leisure and not a strictly competitive environment.

“We will also have a family restaurant there with a specific theme, possibly like a jungle or something similar.”

The bowling lanes will be overlooked by a lounge bar open from 6pm every evening - and the whole complex will be geared at a wide clientele.

Mr Welbourn said: “We really are keen on providing something for everyone. That is a superb site in the heart of the town's leisure and entertainment area.

“It is not far from the university, it is next to the Regent and there is superb access from all parts of the town.”

A formal planning application has now been lodged with the borough council and should be considered within the next two months.

However the principle of converting the building into a new leisure venue was today welcomed by council leader Liz Harsant.

She said: “This sounds like very good news - the perfect use for such an important building. It has been disappointing that it has been empty for a year now so it is great that something will be happening there.”

If planning approval is granted, conversion work on the building should start in the autumn and the developers are aiming to get it reopened by next Easter.

Odeon Timeline:

1991: New Odeon cinema opens. It was built for Rank cinemas by the borough as part of the deal which saw the council take over the Regent.

1998: Odeon's business hit by the opening of the new Virgin (now Cineworld) multiplex.

2005: Odeon closes in August, building bought by local company Colwyn Developments.

2006: Proposals to turn Odeon into leisure centre revealed.

2007: New family leisure centre due to open.

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