Places Leisure (the new leisure centre at Fleming Park) held a Community Celebration Day yesterday (17 February). “You’re an active sporty type of person,” the editor told me. “Go down and see what is there.”
I tried to protest that a bit of running each week doesn’t necessarily define an active sports type of person, but actually was quite looking forward to the chance to go and have a look round the facilities.
The event was designed to showcase just some of the many sports activities that are available at the centre. There were displays and/or have-a-go sessions in the following: gymnastics; badminton; swimming; squash; netball (“standard” and walking); boccia (a bit of a cross between bowls and petanque); premier tennis (like real tennis, but on a smaller court and with less bouncy balls); cycles (on the cycles from the Cycles4All fleet); and spinning (I have to confess, I didn’t see this so have no idea what it involves). Representatives from the various sporting clubs were also on hand to give more information to potential participants.
And what of the building itself? The over-riding impression is that it is big! The sports hall can accommodate fifteen badminton courts and the swimming pool is wide enough for eight lanes. Looking from the end, the extra width gives the illusion that the pool is shorter, but looking from the side you realise that it is a full 25 metres. At the time I was there, the pool was divided into four lanes, giving each lane enough room for swimmers to swim down one side of the lane and back up the other.
Elsewhere in the building there are four squash courts, with clear back walls that allow spectators to watch the game. At least two of these courts have a removable dividing wall to allow a double court to be created.
Upstairs there is a large fitness suite, furnished with ranks of exercise equipment, and a group cycling studio, where a few dozen exercise bikes allow a team of cyclists to recreate their own Tour de France experience.
Around these main facilities are a number of smaller studios for dance, yoga, pilates and many other activities.
The building also contains a health hub for that all-important health advice, and if you think that you hair has been messed up by all this activity, there is even a hairdressing salon on site.
For the children there is great-looking soft play area, with three storeys of frames to climb, and ball pits to play in. I wonder if adults are ever allowed to play there; it looked to be the most fun of all the facilities.
The communal areas were light and airy, and the cafe had a large seating area with views into the swimming pool, and an outdoor terrace.
It was lovely to be able to enjoy a coffee without suffering the humidity from the swimming pool or being bombarded with the smell of chlorine, which is how I remember the cafes at leisure centres of my youth. But I suppose back then they were little more than glorified swimming pools. Leisure facilities have come a long way since those days.
I also liked the artwork on the walls – engineering-style drawings that emphasise that there quite a lot of science behind sport.
Just one thing though. The orange and blue colour scheme did give me a longing for a certain chocolate bar.