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New opening: Selby Summit – the future for publicly-owned leisure centres?

The opening of Selby Summit last month could spell a new era for publicly-owned leisure centres. Tom Walker investigates

by Tom Walker, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management 13 Jun 2016 issue 122
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The innovative design of the centre is a first for a publicly-owned leisure facility
The innovative design of the centre is a first for a publicly-owned leisure facility

“What makes the Selby project unique is that it’s the first public sector leisure facility which has no traditional sport within it,” says Sarah Watts, CEO of Alliance Leisure. “It’s what Sport England’s new strategy calls for – a focus on activities, rather than simply sport.”

Watts is describing the new £5.2m Selby Summit Indoor Adventure in North Yorkshire – a next generation leisure centre developed by Alliance Leisure. Launched on 28 May, the facility is owned by Selby District Council and operated by Wigan-based leisure trust Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles (IHL).

The centre’s facilities are unusual for a public leisure centre: no swimming pools or sports courts, but instead a six-lane 10 pin bowling facility, 20 climbing walls designed for a wide range of abilities, aerial trekking ropes, an indoor skate and BMX park and an adventure play zone. There is also a Summit Ski centre – consisting of two indoor simulators, with their own mini slopes. An outdoor skate park, designed following consultation with local skate park users, will also be built on site with work due to start in July and be completed during the summer.

Future visions
The centre’s concept was borne out of the desire of Alliance Leisure – in partnership with the council – to approach leisure in a different way. The aim was to create a place which would complement traditional mainstream local authority leisure provision, but provide innovative, exciting activities which would attract new people to physical activity.

James Foley, Alliance Leisure’s development lead for the project says: “The vision was to create a concept that would redefine leisure provision in the public sector. We believe that we’ve shown that physical activity can be sustainable and challenge the norm.”

He adds that the use of innovative leisure products – and focusing on family activities – is at the very heart of the project, as the intention is to target families and young people, matching the growing trend to encourage participation by parents.

“It’s quite literally a box of tricks and a great example of what the future of public sector leisure could look like,” adds Watts. “It’s a great credit to Selby District Council (SDC) that they had the vision to make this a reality.”

For Mark Crane, leader of SDC, the centre is a statement of intent. “This isn’t just about the fantastic climbing walls, the great bowling facilities or the amazing ski simulator – the only one of this kind outside of London by the way,” he says.

“This is about putting Selby and the whole district firmly on the map. This is about giving our residents more opportunities to get involved in sport and leisure activities and making our area a great place to enjoy life. It’s these big ambitions that we’re supporting. And it’s these big ambitions on which we’re delivering.”

Future growth
As well as being a trailblazer for publicly owned leisure provision, Watts says the centre is a first for Alliance Leisure too. No small thing for a specialised development company which has delivered more than 100 leisure centre projects since its launch in 1999. “This is the first time we have been involved in building something from scratch,” she explains.

“So far, each of our 100+ developments have been refurbishments or extensions. This is the first we’ve built out of the ground, so it has been really exciting.”

According to Watts, Selby won’t be the last such project, either. “I see new build projects as a growth area for us, as a company. One of the aspects we’re excited about Selby is that it has roll-out capability. You could take it and locate it anywhere in the UK.”

Selby Summit

Location: Selby, North Yorkshire

Total cost: £5.2m

Build cost: £4.3m

Fitting out of facilities: £900,000

Principal contractor: ISG

Operator: Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles

Owner: Selby District Council

Developer: Alliance Leisure

• Six-lane 10 pin bowling
• 20 climbing walls
• Aerial trekking ropes
• Adventure play zone
• Indoor skate and BMX park
• Outdoor skate park
• Café and restaurant

Sarah Watts on:

Sarah Watts
Sarah Watts
Sarah Watts,

Alliance Leisure

Facilities mix: “The face of leisure is changing as local councils look for more sustainable facilities.

“A typical four-court sports hall will generate around £70,000 a year. We recently completed a project in Inverclyde, Scotland where we took one such space and installed a mezzanine level, created an adventure climbing and play zone on the ground floor and a budget fitness offer on the 1st floor. That same space generated £70k in its first six weeks after opening.”

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