After a year of waiting for the extensive refurbishment of Sleaford Leisure Centre to be complete, residents have taken the plunge into the new look facility.
Fifty invited swimmers, who have been instrumental in shaping the £2.85m redesign through their input in consultation and ongoing support of the project, were the first to make waves, universally acclaiming it as an excellent improvement.
Local school children followed on, taking to the fully refurbished pool where the gym has bulked up with new equipment; a wildlife-inspired splash pool keeps kids happy; changing facilities have had a family-friendly facelift; the studio area is larger with more classes than ever; the steam and sauna rooms have been renewed; and the five-lane, 25 metre pool now has improved access.
The official opening will be carried out by Olympic swimmer and TV presenter Sharron Davies on November 8, but North Kesteven District Council was so keen to showcase its remodelled and re-fitted centre that it opened the new doors to the public on Tuesday, exactly 12 months on from last year’s closure.
The day also saw the unveiling of a spectacular mosaic crafted by local residents in association with mosaic designer Alan Potter and the planting of a community garden set up by the BBC as part of a national programme with the Royal Horticultural Society.
NKDC Council Leader Marion Brighton said: “This is a most thrilling day for us all; not least the swimmers and leisure users who I know have waited very patiently and excitedly. I think that what we have achieved here is absolutely stunning and a real credit to everyone involved from the architect and design team at Faithful and Gould, the funders and the council’s officer team to operators Leisure in the Community and centre users themselves.
“Most significantly I must praise our contractors RG Carter for meeting a tight deadline to deliver a first class facility which will meet the aspirations of leisure users to carry us forwards for many decades to come,” she said.
“They have transformed a pool with its origins in a riverside lido built in 1872 into a centre suited to the needs of modern families and inspiring for all generations to increase their participation and enjoyment of sport.
“The most gratifying aspect of today though has to be hearing the many positive, enthusiastic and complementary remarks of centre users as they spill through the door to enjoy a free swim.
“The District Council is committed to the physical heath and wellbeing of its residents. To that end, we are delighted to have been able to undertake this remodelling of Sleaford Leisure Centre, which has always been a popular community facility, and are now turning our attentions to a £2.5m redevelopment of the NK Centre at the north of the district.”
The centre’s duty manager up until its closure Jack Musson said: “It’s so very different from when I worked here I hardly know where I am. Everything’s improved; I’m really impressed.”
After a year of use at the small pool in Harpers, Debbie Scott from Sleaford relished the opportunity to stretch her stroke to a full 25m length. “It’s really been worth the wait,” she said. “It’s hard to believe that it’s the same place; it’s brilliant.”
Regular earlybird swimmer Sharon Bark from Metheringham was among the first to jump in. “I love absolutely everything about it, especially the lap-edge to the pool as you can see where you are going better while swimming.
“It’s so light, airy and welcoming; it’s feels so much nicer. It’s wonderful – absolutely wonderful.”
The new facilities include a Woodland Splash area for under-4s safe watery play, re-graded pool floor and deck-level drainage, coin-return lockers, new sauna and steam rooms, community mosaic within an improved entrance area relocated and refurbished changing rooms including unisex facilities for family use, extended gym with 23 additional stations, improved spectator facilities and additional fitness studio.
As well as the bulk of the funding coming from NKDC, contributions have also been made by Sport England, the Amateur Swimming Association, Leisure in the Community and Eco2 Lincs which is supplying free heat from the nearby straw burning power station.