A glimpse inside Lowestoft leisure centre for 21st century

IT has cost around �6m and taken more than a year, but the overhaul of one of Lowestoft's biggest sports centres is now just weeks from completion – and people are in for a pleasant surprise.

In 2009, Waveney District Council announced plans to redevelop the Waterlane Leisure Centre, saying it recognised the need to 'radically improve and refresh the site' to provide facilities worth of the 21st century.

Since then, the efforts to rejuvenate the centre – originally built 35 years ago in 1976 – have gathered pace.

When it reopens next month, customers will find the rather tired old facilities have gone. In their place will be an array of new and improved features, including a brand new teaching pool, located close to the existing main pool; a new 100-station fitness suite for gym enthusiasts; a special soft play area for youngsters and even a luxury thermal suite that features a steam room, ice station and sauna all under one roof.

With Sentinel Leisure Trust now managing leisure facilities in the district on behalf of Waveney, it has worked with the council and fitness solutions specialist Pulse to oversee a complete revamp of the centre.

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Project manager on behalf of the council and chief executive of Sentinel Leisure Trust, Victoria Beck, admitted that, with the opening just a few weeks away, it was a busy but 'very exciting' time. 'The redeveloped centre will increase opportunities for everyone to get involved in a range of leisure activities,' she said.

After entering through the double doors, customers will be immediately struck by the change of atmosphere and also the scale of the new-look building. People will be welcomed into a new main reception area, which includes turnstiles providing access to sports facilities and the new Source caf� bar to the left.

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'The restaurant, cafe bar and grill will be called Source as this building is on an old site of a spring, so we've stuck to the old tradition,' Mrs Beck said. 'There is a real open atrium feel as you move through the facility.'

The state-of-the-art fitness suite, which extends over two floors, features smart card technology that will allow users to get access to and adjust their personalised fitness programmes. 'With only one card needed it will allow you to record your BMI, setting you targets and acting as a virtual, personal fitness instructor,' Mrs Beck said.

The new soft play area for children is suitable for babies to 11-year-olds, while two new squash courts have been added and an extension built to create an enlarged martial arts and table tennis room.

Also among the new facilities is the new teaching pool with its own moveable floor.

Mrs Beck said this was a great asset: 'By having two separate pools now it gives us so much more versatility. The moveable floor can be adjusted to suit whatever activity is going on in there,' she added.

A new spectators' area has also been created to provide 'a lovely vista' onto the two pools and sports hall, and the other new facilities include wet and dry changing areas, a dance studio, a spin studio, specialist treatment spa rooms equipped with a tanning booth and relaxation room, and the luxury thermal suite.

When the main sports hall reopens it will be returned to its original six-court size, and a new multi-use games area has also been constructed by Lowestoft Sixth Form College, which is available to centre users in the evenings.

'We are very excited, with a feeling of trepidation as this is all new,' Mrs Beck said. 'We ran an initial launch offer and are now running another offer – our sales have been very good and we now have over 700 members.'

With the old centre's staff numbers likely to double, Mrs Beck said there had also been huge interest from would-be employees. She said: 'We had a recruitment drive last month and held a special open day where we had 300 applications – the queue to get in the building at 10am went right back to the car park.'

Although work is nearing completion, she said activity on the site was now at fever pitch as the countdown began to the initial opening in late December. 'The work has been done in phases and this is the busiest it has been in terms of the numbers of workers on site,' Mrs Beck said.

'Although the main contractors Johnson are from the Midlands, we are using predominantly local contractors for the sub contracts as part of the council's tender.'

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