Main contractor Wates Construction has started work on site to deliver the £21.5m leisure and community hub in Carlisle.
The project will see a redevelopment and expansion of the current Sands Centre sports and entertainment venue in central Carlisle off Bridgewater Road to add almost 40,000 sq ft – more than doubling its existing footprint to 100,265 sq ft.
Set across two storeys and accessed by a bespoke, internal ‘street’, the new centre will include a reception area, four-court sports hall, a 25-metre eight-lane swimming pool and 20-metre learner pool with moveable floor, wet and dry changing facilities, a 120-station fitness suite, dance studios, a café, bar and physiotherapy suite.
It will also provide a non-clinical NHS facility to make it an “all-encompassing” community hub for the local area, according to Carlisle City Council, which is leading the project.
Wates was appointed last year to deliver all build works, with minimal disruption to the existing Sands Centre as it will remain open throughout. The first part of the work will see the demolition of part of the building to make way for the new facilities such as the swimming pool.
As part of the enabling works, Wates has creating a temporary leisure facility at the nearby Newman’s School to support the city council and the centre’s current leisure operator GLL to increase capacity for the community.
The Sands Centre project team also includes Pick Everard, GT3 Architects, Buro Happold and FT Leisure. Completion is scheduled for October 2022.
Wates is working on other leisure developments in the North West, including Ellesmere Port Sports Village, Northwich Memorial Court and Worsley Leisure Centre. It is also working on a school project in Cumbria – Whitehaven Academy.
Dave Saville, business unit director of Wates Construction in the North West, said: “This is an incredibly ambitious and complex build, but one that will be of real benefit to the community in Carlisle. We’ve been working with the council around feasibility of this project since 2018, and seeing construction start on site is testament to the hard work of our teams.”
He added: “The pandemic has brought public health and wellbeing into sharp focus and it’s reassuring to see councils invest in hubs like this. Not only do they create a vital new resource for the community, but they also benefit the local supply chain and provide valuable training opportunities for young people.”
Cllr John Mallinson, leader of Carlisle City Council, said: “This is another important step forward for the Sands Centre redevelopment. It is a major project that will provide significant benefits and represents a cornerstone in our plans to support our communities to continue to improve their health and wellbeing.
“Carlisle desperately needs new swimming facilities. This is a one-off opportunity with a dual benefit of all the facilities being on one site.”
The Sands Centre redevelopment has been in the pipeline since 2008 but due to funding difficulties took years to progress. Carlisle City Council signed off the scheme last year at a cost of almost £26m at the time, instead of the original £14m.