Places Leisure Eastleigh – operated by Places for People Leisure – opened in November 2017, replacing the borough’s existing leisure building.
The 9400m² BREEAM-rated ‘Excellent’ building is one of the largest in the region and was designed and constructed in under three years.
The design for the centre evolved over time in close collaboration with Eastleigh Borough Council, operator, Sport England, and user groups from the existing centre to ensure the new leisure centre would meet the needs of the borough for the next 40 years.
AHR put the importance of natural daylight as a key priority in creating healthy and appealing spaces. The new building makes the most of its parkland surroundings through highly glazed double-height spaces. Several design options were analysed to break away from the conventional leisure centre ‘closed box’ design.
Careful orientation of glazing to create north light within the swimming pool and sports hall, combined with stretching the building ‘spine’, has achieved exceptional levels of daylight and parkland views throughout the occupied spaces.
A limited palette of colours and materials were chosen to embed the building within the landscape. Robust hard-wearing materials including dark grey zinc and masonry contrast with bright orange aluminium to provide a strong brand identity which will require minimal long-term maintenance.
A bespoke artwork and signage strategy which consists of large-scale wall graphics and plywood signage panels was developed to showcase the breadth of sporting and community activity within the centre.
Karle Burford, AHR Director, said: “We wanted to design a centre that would meet the council’s objective in promoting a healthy borough and offer the people of Eastleigh a new health and fitness venue with improved facilities, benefiting the whole community.
“Key to the design was for the building to respond to the sensitive natural surroundings and maximise its integration to the parkland. Our design incorporates a wide range of fitness facilities and a pool area, providing natural light and views across the parkland and brook.”
The new facilities include a gym, fitness studios, 25m eight-lane swimming pool, 15 badminton courts, tennis courts, squash courts and all-weather pitches as well as a cafe and soft play area.
Adam Spall, AHR Regional Director, said: “Our architecture, landscape and interior design teams have worked in collaboration with Arup to create a building that has an emphasis on being bright and spacious.
“This building demonstrates that high-quality design, with exceptional daylight and openness, can be achieved in tight timescales and within the Sport England affordable leisure centre model.”
Eastleigh Borough Council first started looking at the possibility of a new leisure centre development when the costs of essential maintenance and upgrading the existing centre – Fleming Park Leisure Centre – became financially unsound.
Fleming Park Leisure Centre was a 1970s building that over the years had been extended in a piecemeal fashion with the most recent ‘add-on’ being 10 years old. Internally, the building was looking very tired, while the facade looked of its era.
The council’s ambitious objective was to provide visitors with a long-term, state-of-the-art facility that would increase participation for all ages, better link with open space and support individual and team development in sports and fitness.
Research was also undertaken in the design stage to ensure that the proposed new venue reflected the current usage pattern of the leisure centre, and also took into account the predicted increase in users over the coming years.
As part of the design, the cycle network surrounding the new venue was enhanced by creating a new east-west shared path to the north of the building. This ensured that cyclists would be able to reach the main entrance and covered cycle parking from all four directions.
Sustainability was another major consideration for the site, with the council requesting a building that would meet a 2011 BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.
This was achieved through energy-efficient measures including solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, a new combined heat and power (CHP) system and natural ventilation.
A robust engagement plan kept key stakeholders including the Fleming Park Consultative Group – consisting of councillors, Places for People, Sport England and building users, such as tennis and swimming clubs – informed throughout the planning, design and construction phases. This included public exhibitions and online updates via the council website.
Surpassing a predecessor Eastleigh Borough Council Leader, Cllr Keith House, said: “As well as offering excellent facilities, Places Leisure Eastleigh will be our flagship for promoting wellbeing and healthier lifestyles for our communities. I know that people across our borough and further afield will be hugely impressed by this superb new venue.
“Places Leisure Eastleigh is sustainably designed, is in complete harmony with its parkland setting and packs far more into the same footprint than its predecessor, which was an important consideration in the scheme. It is a tribute to AHR and our other partners in the project that such an impressive facility was delivered on time and on budget.”
This project further expands upon AHR’s experience in the health and leisure sector, which includes several leisure centres around the UK such as Huddersfield Leisure Centre and Hough End Leisure Centre in Manchester.