Winchester River Park Refurbishment ‘Still An Option’


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New Winchester Leisure Centre Step Closer

A report on the provision of leisure facilities in Winchester shows a brand-new building at North Walls or Bar End could cost anywhere between £25m and £30m – and led to officials indicating to Winchester Today that refurbishment at River Park “still remains an option”.

Various key stakeholders were asked to contribute to the report, including DC Leisure, Sport England, Hampshire and IOW County Sports Partnership, Winchester BID, Winchester Disability Sports Forum, Winchester Sport and Physical Activity Alliance and the University of Winchester.

River Park Leisure Centre, pictured today with a steady stream of visitors (4 June 2013)

The 114-page report was commissioned from Continuum in January to help the City Council come to a decision on future leisure needs.

It examines in detail the local market, changes in population and participation, what sports clubs plan to do, and the type of leisure centre best suited to address them.

Within just a few seconds this morning, it was clear to us just how well-used the facilities are; we could see a steady stream of visitors through the front door, the keep-fit step classes were absolutely packed, and the outside tennis courts were also full of people.

Various options for a new-build leisure centre were considered by the consultants. Different sizes of swimming pool and combinations of gymnastics facilities, tennis courts and health and fitness suites were also looked at.

It was not part of the consultants’ brief to make a judgement as to whether the Council should provide a new centre or refurbish the existing building.

However, it does provide indicative costs which take account of the borrowing that the Council would have to do to finance the construction.

The cost for improved facilities AND repairs on the existing building could be around £8m. Essential repairs only to the roof (pictured below) and plant at the existing site have been estimated at close to £3m. 

It doesn’t take long to spot signs of wear and tear

The report also shows that many people feel that the facility is “showing its age.”

But it’s also clear that despite its age, the building is still used by many people. In fact, although membership has dropped between 2008 and 2013 there were just short of 480,000 visits in 2008. Just five years later in 2013, that figure is now up to well over 530,000 visits.

The amount of surplus cash left over each year after depreciation is also up, despite overall income falling.

Swimming facilities – one of the strongest performing areas

The report shows that the site is clearly operating in a financially sustainable manner – with key income coming from two areas – health and fitness, and the swimming facility (pictured above).

Leader of Winchester City Council, Cllr Keith Wood, says the prime aim is to ensure that leisure facilities will continue to be provided for the city’s residents: “There are currently over 500,000 visits to the centre annually. This report gives us some valuable information as to what can be provided and the costs of delivery.

“The next stage will be for us to look at the costs and benefits of the different options, including refurbishment of the existing centre, in the light of the many competing service pressures on our budgets. I want to move quickly to a clear decision and hope to indicate how we propose to proceed in July.”

You can look at the full report on the Winchester City Council website. (You can see the PDF download facility on the right-hand side of the page.)