Oct 24, 2019 Last Updated 10:52 AM, Aug 14, 2019

Huddersfield's new leisure centre exceeds requirements

Published in Upfront
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Since opening to the public in May 2015, Huddersfield's new leisure centre, designed by AHR, has already seen attendance and membership increase dramatically.


Situated in the centre of Huddersfield, the state-of-the-art centre features an extensive range of wet and dry sporting facilities, offices, meeting rooms, a cafe and kitchen, plus associated landscaping and highways works. The facility is already widely used by the local community residing in Kirklees and West Yorkshire and is on course to become one of the most popular leisure centres in the region.

Hazel Francis, General Manager of the management company Kirklees Active Leisure said: “KAL are delighted with the new leisure centre, which has been very well received by KAL’s customers, as well as by the staff working in the building. The leisure centre is, without doubt, the finest leisure facility in West Yorkshire and one of the best in the UK.

“It’s great to see new customers, who have never visited a leisure facility before, coming in to see what we can offer to improve their health and wellbeing. The open layout and top quality facilities are certainly encouraging people to come in to visit and to then become that bit more active, which is great.”

The client’s ambition for the project was to achieve a substantial new sports facility for the population of Kirklees which would rival other facilities in the north of England. The centre addresses the demographic make-up of Kirklees and caters for the needs of all local people.

Sue Eyre, Project Architect at AHR, said: “The new Leisure Centre for Huddersfield has been designed as a direct response to the client’s requirements for a wide range of sporting activities to suit a modern multicultural society and to meet the need for a prominent civic building which would enhance and contribute to the town centre.”

The town centre location was chosen to ensure that the building will contribute to the urban and social regeneration of Kirklees through quality of design and innovation. Accessibility and inclusion were key objectives and the facility exceeds all statutory requirements for people with disabilities, to a degree that has rarely been achieved before. Special consideration was also given to groups who might otherwise feel constrained by disability, ethnicity or body image.

The design of the building externally reflects the prominence of the city centre site in a grouping of civic buildings which are close to transport hubs. The overall geometry reflects the existing street patterns and movement. The design takes advantage of the sloping site to minimise the impact on adjacent residential uses and the materials used are a restricted palette of colour and texture, including the use of local coursed stone that is prevalent in Huddersfield and sourced only a few miles away.

Internally the centre has an easily navigated layout with clearly defined wet and dry zones divided by a central, top lit double height atrium. This central hub of the building plus the foyer and cafe area features art work especially designed by the Project by Community artist Stella Corrall and one of the main attractions of the leisure centre is the large double height entrance area with bespoke reception facilities.

Environmental sustainability was key to the design process and features such as natural ventilation, grey water recycling, a bio diverse roof, intelligent light controls on PIRs and sustainably sourced timber provide a high sustainable output for Kirklees Council.

Facilities include an eight lane 25m ASA accredited short course national competition pool with seating for 260 spectators, a submersible wheelchair platform lift and an integrated timing system and a 20m training pool with moveable floor which can be screened off for privacy and flexibility.

A leisure pool includes interactive water features, lazy river, baby pool, sidewinder, flume, bubble seat and separate spa pool. The sidewinder, one the main attractions for the centre is placed adjacent to a large window to be the showpiece of the facility when viewed from outside. Wet change facilities are also included along with a family change village and four team changing rooms.

The wet zone is arranged especially for easy access to the changing rooms and pool area. The first floor is split by the atrium which separates the large fitness studio from the other studios, changing areas, pool spectator’s area and ancillary accommodation.

As well as swimming facilities the leisure centre also includes a 12.5m climbing and bouldering wall, two glass backed squash courts, a combat room with Dojo and ceiling hoist to allow the room to be used for therapy, a two court sports hall with a trampolining spotting rig, an eight court sports hall with retractable baseball nets and retractable seating for over 1000 people, a large fitness studio with cardiovascular, functional and free weight areas with interactive lighting, a cycle studio, four fitness studios and training room facilities.

Adult day care provision including a kitchen has been installed along with a children’s activity room featuring integral play structure, seating and separate toilets.

During construction, quality and budget management were key considerations. Although the project did not explicitly follow a ‘soft landings’ approach, liaison with the facility management team was sought at all stages and the project processes did engage and involve a wide spectrum of stakeholders progressively through the design development, construction and completion stages.

Kirklees Council initially commissioned AHR as Brief Manager to develop the outline briefing documents and client requirements. This was an important stage that established the strategic brief against the many concerns of the authority, the operator and users. AHR was then appointed through competitive tender as lead consultant for the design of the new building and at this stage a larger cross section of users and community interests was consulted, including: an existing sports centre for the general public, sports groups, local political representatives and pressure/ interest groups.

The facilities management team and other key stakeholders continued to be involved throughout the development of the project in all aspects of design from the strategic provision of facilities and overall life span, to the more detailed actual component specification and the operational impact of detailed design decisions.

The project was delivered on time and within the agreed budget. Handover was a carefully managed process both operationally and with respect to management of the facility itself.

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