Tuesday 17 March 2015

It was hard hats at the ready today as building work officially began on a new £16m redevelopment at Graves tennis and leisure centre in the south of Sheffield.

In what is the biggest investment in leisure facilities in the city in the last 20 years, two new state-of-the-art leisure venues are now under construction both at Graves and also at Thorncliffe in High Green.

Councillor Julie Dore, Leader of Sheffield City Council, said: “After construction began on the North Active leisure centre in High Green last week, I am very pleased to see that work is now beginning on this even bigger project in the south of the city.

“Both of these exciting developments will not just be traditional sports centres, but will bring swimming pools, gyms, sports facilities and health services together.

“It is especially pleasing that, in this time of austerity, our partnership working with organisations such as Sport England, the NCSEM, the Lawn Tennis Association and British Gymnastics is enabling Sheffield City Council to drive these important developments forward and invest in the health of our future generations.”

These two new facilities in the north and south of the city are the first new public leisure facilities to be built in Sheffield in a decade.

National operator Places for People Leisure was selected earlier this year to run both of the multi-million pound new leisure and health venues, which will open in 2016.

The Graves development will include a six-lane 25m swimming pool, a separate learner pool, a major new fitness suite and studios, two additional indoor tennis courts and Sheffield’s first-ever dedicated gymnastics and trampolining centre.

Both centres will also incorporate health and research facilities as part of the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine (NCSEM). This unique relationship with the NCSEM – an Olympic Legacy project – brings health and wellbeing services under one roof.

Sir Andrew Cash, Chief Executive for Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Chair of the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, said: “The commencement of the building work for the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine Hub at Graves Tennis and Leisure Centre is really exciting.

“It is a significant step towards achieving the vision for this ambitious project and will make it easier for people in Sheffield to be active as part of their everyday lives.

“Part of that journey is about using physical activity within a patient’s recovery and rehabilitation as well as using it to prevent ill health. The facilities at Graves and also at High Green and Concord have been designed to support and co-locate patients, clinicians, researchers and exercise professionals as a way of making that happen.

“Seeing the vision come together in bricks and mortar is very satisfying. Physical activity must become part of everybody’s daily living.”

Operator Places for People Leisure runs more than 100 leisure centres across the country and has been UK Leisure Operator of the Year for the past two years.

The operator will run the current leisure centre at Graves from April this year, during the redevelopment phase, and then manage the new Graves facilities – on the same site – from the opening in summer 2016.

Places for People Leisure will also manage the Thorncliffe venue in High Green from its opening next spring.

Staff currently working at Graves and at Chapeltown Pool – which will close when the Thorncliffe venue opens – will transfer to the new venues.

Places for People Leisure has also confirmed that there will be additional job opportunities across the two venues into 2016 and beyond, further details of which will be made available in due course.

Tim Hewett, Business Development Director for Places for People Leisure said: “We are delighted to see that the building works on the city’s new sports facilities has commenced.

“These new facilities will be a tremendous asset to the city and to the residents that will use them.

“As the council’s chosen leisure partner to operate these facilities on their behalf, Places for People Leisure look forward to their opening, which will undoubtedly encourage greater participation from all sections of the community to become more active and healthier.”

Councillor Isobel Bowler, cabinet member for culture, sport and leisure at Sheffield City Council, said: “Here in Sheffield we have a proud sporting heritage and it is important that we build upon that to create the right environment in which the sportsmen and women of the future can train, develop and thrive.

“But it isn’t just about the elite, it is about every man, woman and child in our city being fitter, healthier and enjoying physical activity.

“This completely revamped leisure centre at Graves will be a top-class venue at which people from all walks of life can swim, take part in team sports and join in fitness sessions to make them happier and healthier.”

Sport England has invested £2.75 million of National Lottery funding from its Iconic Facilities Fund towards the building of the new centre as well as working closely with the project team to provide detailed advice and support on the development of the plans.

Charles Johnston, Sport England Property Director, said: “We’re pleased to be supporting Sheffield City Council with their plans to improve the city’s community sports facilities.

“First-class, local facilities are vital to getting more people playing sport regularly and the new Graves tennis and leisure centre, together with the North Active centre, will be a great addition to the city.”