£1 million investment set for Fenland's four leisure centres
More than £1million of investment will be pumped into Fenland’s leisure centres when Freedom Leisure takes over their management and operation in December.
Fenland District Council has offered a 15-year leisure management contract to the not-for-profit leisure trust to save taxpayers £350,000 a year and enable much-needed investment into local leisure facilities.
Freedom Leisure, which manages leisure and cultural facilities on behalf of partners across the UK, has set out an innovative capital investment programme which includes a major £500,000 redevelopment of the Hudson Leisure Centre in Wisbech.
The plans include transforming the indoor bowls hall into a state-of-the-art gym and adjoining spinning studio and will free up the current gym space to use as a second exercise studio – enabling thousands more people to use the facilities.
Developing the Hudson will also contribute £201,000 towards the annual savings of £350,000 – allowing the council to continue to provide a leisure service for the whole of Fenland within a reduced budget.
There will also be improvements to leisure centre reception areas, including self-service check-in kiosks, and Costa Coffee at two of the centres, gym and studio improvements, a gym equipment upgrade in late 2019, and additional concessions and customer benefits.
The new service will: Cost significantly less than the council-run operation over 15 years; secure significant immediate capital investment in new facilities and maintenance; increase attendance levels by 60,000 people a year at the Hudson alone; provide free swimming for under 8s from low income households and over 75s; employ a new active communities officer whose role will be to increase participation in sport and physical activity across Fenland; introduce a talented athlete scheme, offering talented young athletes access to leisure facilities to support their training
Coun Mark Buckton, Fenland’s portfolio holder for leisure and young people, said: “The council will continue to retain ownership of the leisure centres, but allowing Freedom Leisure to operate them for us will bring so many benefits to Fenland.
“It will not only improve the council’s financial position but also bring much-needed investment in our facilities which can only encourage more people to get involved and be active.
“We have been able to do this at the same time as securing concessions and access to services for those vulnerable groups who already enjoy the facilities.”
The Hudson Bowls Club has a lease to use the indoor bowls hall at the Hudson Centre until the end of December 2018, although the club will continue to have use of the hall until the end of the winter bowling season, with building works commencing in early summer 2019.
Freedom will also introduce short mat bowls at the Hudson to enable bowls to continue at the centre, and for the whole community to enjoy.
Coun Buckton said: “Freedom is investing half a million pounds to transform the indoor bowls hall into a state-of-the-art gym and spinning room, which is a significant investment on their part and fantastic news for the whole of Wisbech.
“Inevitably this will leave members of the bowls club disappointed, but we are working with them to find alternative options that allow them to continue doing what they enjoy.
“With other local authorities across the country having to close leisure facilities due to financial pressures, this new partnership with Freedom will build upon the high-quality services people enjoy and ensure our leisure centres remain vibrant for years to come.”