Aquatics Centre earmarked for £31m upgrade
The Manchester leisure centre on Oxford Road is to undergo an extensive refurbishment over the next two years to improve facilities and reduce its carbon footprint, according to plans from the city council.
The investment proposal, to be discussed by Manchester City Council’s executive committee when it meets next Wednesday and by the full council on 3 February, would see almost £31m made available for the project.
Funding of £29.1m would be through borrowing and the remaining £1.3m through capital receipts from land and building sales, according to the proposal. As a result, the council’s capital budget would increase by £0.7m in 2020/21, £8.5m in 2021/22 and £21.2m in in 2022/23.
The Aquatic Centre was built in 1999 and opened in 2000, designed by architecture studio FaulknerBrowns. It runs at a profit, says the council, and over the years has had an overall economic impact for the city of more than £4m a year. It has hosted high-profile events including the 2002 Commonwealth Games, The Duel in The Pool in 2009 and an array of British and international championships.
In 2023, it is due to host the World Paralympic Swimming Championship.
However, after two decades of use, several mechanical and electrical failures are starting to occur as parts of the building’s fabric begin to age, a report to the executive committee said. “Without significant investment, this would result in an increasing number of unplanned closures, cause the withdrawal of some services, and make permanent closure of the flagship facility a serious threat,” the report said.
Detailed survey and investigation work over the past year has shown that it will cost almost £31m to address these issues, refurbish the building and incorporate green technologies to reduce the centre’s carbon footprint by 40%.
Among the works that need doing are a replacement of the pool treatment system, lighting and moveable floors, an upgrade of the heating and electrical systems, refurbishment of lifts and replacement of the spa facility. Underused parts of the building may also need to be repurposed to improve health and fitness facilities and increase opportunities to generate income.
If approved by the council, the work would take place on a phased basis over two-and-a-half years to minimise disruption and ensure that public access to at least one pool is maintained at any given time.
Cllr Luthfur Rahman, executive member for culture and leisure at Manchester City Council, said: “This one-off investment will ensure that Manchester Aquatic Centre maintains its place as one of the leading aquatics venues in the UK for the next 20 years and more.
“Leisure has a crucial role to play in Manchester’s recovery from the social, health and economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and it would be unthinkable to allow this key element of the city’s overall swimming provision, which also contributes to our global sporting reputation, to wither and die.
“But that is what would be likely to happen without serious investment.”
Delaying a decision to invest would cost the city more in maintenance costs and unscheduled closures to building, mechanical and electrical failures in the coming years, Rahman added.