As part of an ongoing waterfront regeneration in the seaside town, ISG, Denbighshire Council and Alliance Leisure are building SC2, a spiritual successor to Rhyl’s gone-but-not-forgotten Sun Centre. Place North West paid a visit to a surprisingly complicated project on the Wales coast.
Rhyl’s Sun Centre was a staple of many a childhood school trip for many of us in the North West – and home to Europe’s first indoor surfing pool.
Closed in 2014 and demolished in 2016, the centre was dubbed “too expensive to run” by Denbighshire Council, which has now taken the step to deliver a new leisure pool as part of its plans to regenerate Rhyl’s seafront.
The £14.8m centre, dubbed SC2, will be a prominent addition to the town and forms part of a wider £33m investment brought forward in partnership with Ion Developments, which has already completed a £2.4m of Rhyl’s Pavilion Theatre, as well as a 73-bedroom Travelodge and a cinema, just opposite the site of the new leisure centre.
Main contractor ISG has been on site since October last year, and at the time of Place North West’s visit on a blustery April day, the company is currently on week 29 of a 66-week construction programme.
Situated only metres from the sea on the site of the town’s former skatepark, the 12,000 sq ft facility features a distinctive wave-shaped roof. The steel frame has been erected and interior works including a concrete pour are currently under way.
Designed by architect S&P, the building will have distinctive black-and-gold cladding with facilities including flume rides, an indoor “Total Wipeout-style” play area, and a café. At one side, a large gap in the steel frame has intentionally been left to allow one of the slides to exit and then re-enter the building.
It has been designed to complement rather than compete with the nearby Nova Centre in Prestatyn, which included a refurbishment of an existing leisure centre and the extension of a swimming pool. This was also completed by ISG and brought forward by Alliance and the council.
At SC2, the build process has required ISG to enlist a long line of specialist contractors, both international and local.
Polish contractor Hippo Leisure have been instructed with the fit-out and to provide SC2’s flumes and slides, while ISG has also chosen local firm Evadx to deliver the steelwork while Furness Partnership is carrying out civil engineering work. World Leisure will help to build the balance tank and pool, along with its pipework.
Some of the specialist equipment required for the centre has brought its fair share of challenges, as ISG’s project manager Steve Lowton explains.
There have been some design changes throughout the process including changes to the staircases servicing the slides, which required alteration to the size of the pad foundations in the building.
The slides, he says, are delivered from the Polish contractor in shipping containers in sections, and will be built up inside the leisure centre using a mobile crane, once the steel frame and supporting structures are complete.
ISG has also taken an innovative approach to the building’s roof, choosing an innovative technique using an aluminium ‘roll’ to ensure the roof is watertight. The system, much in demand throughout Europe, has been used by the contractor’s team for the first time on the project, and provides a more weatherproof roof to the building owing to its lack of joints.
The roll is loaded up from ground level using a 160-tonne crane, and ISG had a four-day slot to carry out these works, and as Lowton says: “Due to the demand for this, if you missed your slot, it would be something like four months before you get it back”.
Other innovations used on the project include using a sprayed concrete on the balance pool, which supports the main pool. This concrete, sprayed against the pool’s shutters, contains crystals which absorb water, which then compacts the concrete, preventing any holes or leakages. Like the roofing solution, it is the first time ISG’s team on site has used this technique.
Cladding is due to start going up in the coming weeks ahead of completion early next year, and Denbighshire Council hopes its investment in SC2 will increase footfall along the seafront by 350,000 visitors a year.
The council said: “We fully recognises the benefits of facilities to people’s health and well-being and we are meeting increasing demand from our communities for exercise classes and up to date facilities.
“This scheme focuses on renewing the leisure and facilities offering for the coastal strip of Rhyl. Cumulatively, these proposals will regenerate the Rhyl Waterfront, adding new attractions, consolidating existing ones and introducing missing commercial elements.
“It is anticipated that all of this will significantly increase footfall into Rhyl town centre from visitors, but also from residents in Rhyl, Denbighshire and the wider North Wales area.”
Further up the seafront, Scarborough International Properties is pushing on with its Marina Quay retail development, with discount superstore The Range opening in March, while plans for an 18,600 sq ft Aldi store have been submitted at the £25m development.
Farmfoods, Poundworld, and Greggs have since followed The Range as tenants at the scheme, which comprises 132,000 sq ft of retail and leisure.
The council hopes that this combination of retail, leisure, and hospitality will help to breathe life into Rhyl, and there will be further deals in the pipeline at Marina Quay to support further growth in the town.
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