Cotswold Leisure Cirencester
Cotswold Leisure Cirencester has provided an invaluable public sports facility in Cirencester for many years. But when faced with increased private competition and deteriorating conditions, the Council took the brave decision to start again and a new, modern centre was built next door. But what support systems need to be in place to ensure the smooth operation of a modern Centre and to make it a safe and secure place? PEL Services Ltd. explains the challenges faced when supplying, installing and commissioning fire, security, safety and audiovisual systems in such an environment.
Public leisure facilities have come a long way over the past 20 years, partly as a result of a national push to promote the benefits to be had from fitness and sport and partly driven by consumer expectations as to the quality of the overall experience.
Certainly, there is greater public awareness of the health benefits of regular exercise. Mintel research has show a consistent national rise in the number of health and fitness members since 1998 and one in five British adults now attends a health and fitness club; and this is expected to rise. What’s more, cost is no longer a deciding factor in the majority of cases, with membership of fitness clubs often included in household expenditure, so it’s perceived as a necessity not a luxury.
Aspirations and expectations of customers have also increased. The cold changing rooms and elastic plaster filled footbaths of many of our childhoods are no longer acceptable. Customers have become used to seeing and using private sports clubs and gyms which not only offer top notch facilities but in stylish, sophisticated surroundings. Very little differentiation is given between private and public if public facilities can’t compete at or near to this level, then they remain idle and unused.
Cotswold District Council already had a number of varied leisure facilities under its control, but its main leisure centre in Cirencester found itself in this difficult position of competing against the private market, but with outdated facilities and a decidedly tired appearance.
In 2005, the Council took the forward thinking decision to demolish its existing leisure centre and replace it with a new centre, on the same site, that would meet the needs of its population for the next few decades. To ensure these needs were properly identified and met, the council conducted a review of the operation of the existing Cotswold Leisure Cirencester, matched with a demographic analysis of the catchment area and potential participation rates within a 20 minute drive time.
As you would expect, the Council already had detailed demographic figures which showed a high proportion of residents aged over 50, who would require activities and facilities specifically targeted for their age, and a substantial number of residents in professional and technical occupations (43%), whom are known to have an above average participation in fitness activities.
When comparing the demographics and potential participation rates to facilities at the existing Centre, it wasn’t all bad news. The swimming pools (the most popular facility) and sports halls were sufficient, but there was an under supply of health and fitness which is also the area that represents the greatest potential for income growth. So the sensible conclusion was to increase the number of health and fitness stations and to design them to a much higher standard of finish than before; this would provide the Centre with a good opportunity to sell gym packages in direct competition to the private sector. In addition, attention was paid to the design of public areas, such as the reception and foyer, which were underutilising the space they occupied, as well as being uninviting.
Of course, in order to provide these modern sports facilities there has to be support systems in place to ensure the smooth operation of the Centre and make it a safe and secure place for visitors and staff alike. PEL Services Ltd. has been installing such systems for over 35 years and was awarded the contract to supply, install and commission the fire, security, safety and audio visual systems.
Despite being a 21st Century leisure facility where people go to exercise, relax and unwind, it’s a pretty harsh environment for the electrical equipment! When you consider that some of these systems are life critical, the challenge of designing and installing them is immense. How do you cope with hostile environments such as a swimming pool which are not only wet but have corrosive chlorine in the atmosphere?; what’s required to secure a building that is likely to be prone to vandalism?; what considerations need to be given under the Disability Discrimination Act?; how do you provide a music system that is flexible enough to play different tracks in different areas, and remain fully audible!? All these aspects and more – need to be considered and met.
The consultants on this substantial project were Max Fordham, who outlined the requirements and the design but, with PEL’s extensive experience in this field, allowed the company a large degree of freedom in terms of design, choice of product, etc. PEL used its extensive product knowledge across the different disciplines to best effect, ensuring the new leisure centre had a combination of tried and tested equipment and systems that were also capable of seeing the centre into the future.
For further information, including details of equipment used, is available in the download version: