No. A new sports centre with competition standard facilities offering broad provision should cost around £20m, depending on the exact specifications. If well designed and built, it could last at least 50 years. This offers better value for money than refurbishing River Park LC at a cost of £4m to £5m, to last another 10 years or so – at which point a new sports centre would be needed anyway. Furthermore, there is a one-off opportunity now to secure funding related to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic legacy, which would reduce the cost to be borne by local institutions and taxpayers in Winchester. (For ideas on fundraising options, see: Sport facility fundraising.pdf)
The proposals we’ve developed incorporate flexible facilities that can support a wide range of activities – from fun activities through to a high-level of competition. There is something for everyone. If such facilities are programmed effectively, there should be no need for anyone to feel excluded. For example, a 50m community pool (with a moveable partition and variable depth) should allow for public lane swimming and/or leisure swimming throughout the day, even when part of the pool is being used for e.g. swimming lessons, club training or aqua aerobics. Having the ability to host competitive events is important, too – it generates revenue, attracts new users, and allows local teams to advance through competitive leagues. This allows local athletes to develop their talent and achieve their potential.
First, we need to agree what to build. Any new facility must deliver more court time and more pool time, as existing facilities are under huge pressure. It should also expand provision into new or currently under-served areas of sport and recreation, such as gymnastics. Once it is clear what the community needs, a viable location must be identified – one that will ensure maximum access and use. We have looked at a number of sites and concluded that Bar End offers the best compromise as it’s already a sports hub, and it’s equally accessible to those inside and outside the City, including by bus and bicycle (e.g. the new cycle path down to the Hockley Viaduct). You can also walk from the city centre down the river or along Chesil Street – it’s the same distance from the Guildhall and bus station as River Park (0.6 miles, just over 10 minutes walk). There’s plenty of space for car parking, and, importantly, it’s not in the middle of the flood plain! (For a detailed assessment of the issues related to both Bar End and North Walls, see: Sports centre location issues.pdf)