As well as local authority funding, Worcester City Council’s eligibility for National Lottery funding from Sport England has proved fundamental to the success of the scheme, attracting the maximum funding of £2m for the project.
The new facility provides a massive boost to the city of Worcester’s sporting credentials, guaranteeing it will become an important new destination for regional competition-level swimming. The new centre also supports healthy and active lifestyles across the county, with the opening weekend seeing 6000 visitors through the door and over 750 new members signing up.
Speller Metcalfe began work on the new pool in November 2015, starting with the demolition of a large section of the existing building that was replaced with a two-storey extension which incorporates a range of new facilities. To meet Sport England’s requirements for the centre, project architect NORR Consultants invested in the principles of Sport England’s Design Guidance Notes (DGNs). Great emphasis was placed by both Sport England and the client on disabled access and inclusivity with facilities for both spectators and pool users, including level access into the building, disabled lifts and parking within close proximity of the entrance.
The main 25 x 17m eight-lane pool boasts poolside seating for 284 spectators with a further 118 seats around the poolside for swimmers. The pool hall also hosts a new 17 x 10m teaching pool with a movable floor – creating flexibility for swimmers of all ages and abilities – and a key project driver to create a centre suitable for all. One highlight is the wheelchair access directly into each pool using pool pods, a platform that provides quick and simple access remotely operated by the user or assisted by pool attendants.
As well as a wet changing village (including separate ‘Changing Places’ and ‘assisted changing’ rooms) to support the pool area, the new extension provides a large welcoming atrium with cafe facilities and poolside viewing, a fitness gym with 110-120 stations, a fully refurbished eight-court sports hall, and an air conditioned fitness studio.
As part of the refurbishment of the existing sports hall, Speller Metcalfe installed new LED lighting, acoustic wall panels and new tiered seating for up to 100 spectators. The first phase works also included the installation of a new mezzanine floor within the existing fitness studio to create a first floor spin studio, office and meeting room.
Externally, Perdiswell Leisure Centre has been transformed with a new, larger car park with the capacity for nearly 400 vehicles that includes coach bays, parent and child parking, disabled spaces and designated parking for motorcycles as well as a covered cycle store. The car park also includes a landscaped swale area designed to manage surface water from the building and car parks during periods of heavy and persistent rainfall.
The project has not been without its challenges with the design brief evolving as the project unfolded. The design team developed alternative cost options for Worcester City Council which included refurbishing areas of the existing building to the same specification as the new build, whilst ensuring the project remained on time and to budget. It was also important that the interfaces between the existing and new structures were co-ordinated and integrated appropriately to create a feeling of seamless transition.
The main challenge was keeping the existing centre functioning while undertaking major construction works in and around the centre. The team were considerate of the impact that construction work would have on existing members and the logistical challenges that came with extending and refurbishing a live building.
Richard Savory, Senior Project Manager for Worcester City Council, believed that Speller Metcalfe’s ability to “co-operate and collaborate with the project management teams from both Raise Partnership and Turner & Townsend has been their greatest attribute”.
Collaboration is particularly evident in the relationship between the project team and Freedom Leisure, the leisure trust awarded a 10-year contract to manage all the council’s sport and leisure centres. Together, Freedom Leisure and the project team reviewed the fit-out requirements for the leisure centre to ensure the highest level of facilities for its members.
The renovation of this leisure centre has been an exciting project for national contractor, Speller Metcalfe, whose Worcestershire office was responsible for the build. Managing Director, Des O-Neill, commented: “The leisure development will strengthen the city’s reputation as a sporting city, as well as continue providing other employment for our local supply chain from across the county.”
Other opportunities that arose during the scheme include Heart of Worcestershire College students getting a taste of the construction industry by completing work placements on site, with local school children also putting their mark on the leisure centre with their artwork featured on the 30m-wide window in the pool hall and above the main entrance.
The second phase of the project, which will incorporate a further refurbishment of the original centre, will provide two new air conditioned fitness studios and two teaching rooms and will be completed this month.