Commercial and Community needs in Leisure Centres Redevelopment

Dean Lucas
A look into how local leisure centres are adapting to changing demands and lifestyles whilst remaining relevant in our communities.

We all know the benefits of exercise, don’t we? It can help to control your weight, combat health conditions and diseases, improve your mood and boost energy levels.

The way in which we exercise and the popularity of certain sports has changed dramatically over the past decade. We have less leisure time but increasingly want to try something new and we want the flexibility when we do it; 24-hour gym anyone?

Faithful+Gould has experience in delivering what’s considered more traditional facilities: full wet and dry side leisure centres which have included competition pools, leisure water with flumes and wave machines, learner pools with moveable floors, state of the art fitness suites with multi-purpose studios, clip ‘n’ climb and sports halls. We have also helped clients explore less conventional facilities such as indoor wave riders, trampolining, ninja warrior circuits and wave balls in lieu of wave machines. Recent projects include the multi award winning East Riding Bridlington leisure centre and Dover District Leisure Centre

The private gym sector is currently enjoying good growth, but what about Local Authority fitness facilities? We all remember going to our local leisure centre when we were younger. The draughty changing rooms, strong smell of chlorine, the freezing cold swimming pool and the tired décor. With continued pressure on public spending you could be forgiven for thinking that these 1970s centres would continue to deteriorate until they ceased to exist. But times are changing. With the support of Central Government, investment opportunity from Sport England, demand from local communities and some savvy operators, this decade has seen a significant increase in the number of new Local Authority leisure centres that are being built up and down the county. We have been part of this transformation, not only through helping to create new centres but also in refurbishing and extending existing facilities to give them a new lease of life and we will continue to use our expertise and experience to support this growth.

The Government is firmly behind making sports and leisure activities easily accessible to everyone. Tracey Crouch MP, Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage comments that:

“Our focus in the future will be on the benefits that sport can bring to people and to society, built around a simple set of outcomes: physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing, individual development, social and community development and economic development. Public funding will be directed to delivering these outcomes and success will be measured against improvements in each of them.”

In fact, the Government issued a report in December 2015, Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation which firmly recognises the importance of sport and fitness and also acknowledges the positive £39 billion contribution it makes to the economy every year.

Sport England are helping to deliver this strategy by investing in projects to create accessible facilities and make taking part in sport and physical activity a realistic option for many more people whilst leading to a better experience for those who are already engaged.

Jennie Price, Chief Executive, Sport England states “Our vision is that everyone, regardless of their age, background or level of ability, feels able to engage in sport and physical activity. Some will be young, fit and talented, but most will not. We want everyone to feel welcome, to find something in sport and activity that meets their needs and for the sector to value them as customers.”

The turnaround is impressive. The findings of Moving Communities: Active Leisure Trends – a new insight report from ukactive and the DataHub found that:

  • Total membership increased by 9 per cent from FY16 to FY17, indicating an increasing desire to take part in physical activity.
  • The proportion of visits for indoor cycling classes has increased by 79 per cent since 2016, with this and cardio classes accounting for over 50 per cent of total group workout visits.
  • The proportion of visits for swimming has fallen 15 per cent since 2016, but it remains the most popular single activity, accounting for 35 per cent of all leisure centre visits.
  • Leisure Centres are more ethnically diverse than the population as a whole, with Asian and Black users accounting for 13 per cent and 8 per cent of members respectively (8 per cent and 3 per cent of the overall UK population).
  • Over 65s are under-represented, making up 9 per cent of the membership base compared to 22 per cent of overall UK population, suggesting latent potential for operators to engage older adults.

And interestingly…

  • Saturday is the quietest day of the week despite being the day when people have the most free time, indicating significant opportunities to increase capacity, particularly through more family-friendly activity offerings.

It also shows that growing numbers are swapping traditional activities like swimming for spin bikes and other group workouts, leading to a significant shake-up of the ‘gym and swim’ status quo. A key signal that the sector needs to keep on evolving to survive.

A second report produced by ukactive demonstrates the major social value that leisure centres provide to the communities that they serve which further emphases their importance in society. It is therefore vital that every delivery and commissioning organisation should have a consistent, credible, accurate and up to date understanding of what good looks like and how to deliver it locally, accounting for different environments and opportunities.

Faithful+Gould can help Local Authorities address their sport and leisure needs by generating a business case which considers latent demand, appropriate facility mix, site analysis, capital costs, revenue projections, financing options and potential funding sources such as Sport England.

We have excellent experience of delivering new leisure facilities nationally, from inception through to completion and often act as lead consultant, bringing together a full multi-disciplinary team which specialises in delivering these types of projects using one of our OJEU compliant frameworks.

Our expertise enables us to provide accurate, up to date information on facility mix options so that our clients can make informed decisions at every stage. We understand that many clients are not experienced in delivering construction projects and for most it will be the only centre they deliver. We pride ourselves on working collaboratively, sharing our experience and knowledge so that their project exceeds expectations.

If you would like more information on how we can help you deliver your leisure project then please contact Dean Lucas.

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