event review

The physical activity facilities forum

Professionals responsible for the development and delivery of sport, leisure and recreational facilities came together last month to network, share best practice and do business.

THE physical activity facilities forum brought together operators, local authorities, school leaders, project managers, architects, contractors and other senior level professionals with manufacturers and suppliers of products and services to the sector to network, find out what’s new and do business. Delegates benefitted from a tailored schedule

of one-to-one meetings in a professional yet informal environment. The immersive nature of the event allowed delegates to focus on the meeting and networking activities. They also learned about the latest innovations in sport, play, recreation and leisure at the forum’s CPD- certified seminar programme.

university sport Zena Wooldridge, director of sport at University of Birmingham and president of the European Squash Federation, discussed the university’s new sports and fitness centre. Costing £55m, the project is the largest investment ever made in a single building by the university. The site is the size of two football pitches and

replaces a pub and car park that had previously occupied the space. A new 50m training pool, 200-station gym and 2000sq m indoor arena form the core of the build, bolstered by five studios, a small hall at 450sq m, six squash courts and an open-plan dojo. The larger hall

has fixed 800 seats with space for additional temporary seating, and the small hall has 200 seats. The club also includes an interior climbing wall and a Costa café, while the top floor is a performance centre containing a smaller professional gym, training and consultation rooms and an on-site sports injury clinic. “We want to fill the pool with regular

occupancy from the community, not competitors or events that will disrupt the regular schedule,” said Wooldridge when explaining the decision to opt for a training pool over a competition pool. Swimming lessons for users of all ages and abilities are available, and the new parking area is community-only, which initially drew some negative response from students and university staff. The design of the centre emphasises

openness and connectivity between different areas of the building. The café and gym both feature large panel windows overlooking the pool, and the climbing wall is situated in an

open space facing the café. Clear use of signposting and large wall displays make navigating the centre instantly intuitive. The university has a 15-month plan to reach

membership targets. Student income was incredibly rapid, with membership closing for students just two days after the beginning of term. Wooldridge said the project is on schedule to deliver a 2.5x increase in participation and income. The chief goals are to triple student membership and double community membership, while spreading student gym use across the day to avoid overcrowding during peak hours. This would be achieved via both a new ‘saver’ price for off- peak swim and gym sessions, and a plan to purchase a gym in a student-rich area of the city to offset usage of the main site.

modular building Chris Whitaker, facilities and investment manager at England & Wales Cricket Board and Andy Mytom, partner at David Morley Architects talked about a project of a much smaller scale in their joint presentation. Recognising that some communities are disadvantaged through a lack of infrastructure to support development, the ECB and Sport England commissioned David Morley Architects to explore the potential for an off-grid pavilion. 27

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