As local authorities are finding ways to be ever more creative with limited funds it is heartening to see capital projects being given the green light. One way that councils are able to do this is by housing multiple services on one site. In some instances this means that schools, leisure facilities and health care are co-located, for others like the new Ards Blair Mayne Wellbeing and Leisure Complex in Northern Ireland, the answer is to create a versatile leisure facility that answers all the sports and wellness needs of the region.
The £30million project for Ards and North Down Borough Council opened at the beginning of this year and consists of three main areas – a dome-covered synthetic turf training area, sports halls, swimming pools and fitness suites.
The days of council-owned leisure facilities that were essentially one rectangular pool and a multi-purpose hall used for everything from basketball to aerobics to the WI meetings appear to be over. Ards Blair Mayne Wellbeing and Leisure Complex is a fine example of the leisure and wellness amenities that we expect today. Devin Consulting designed the specialist engineering for the wet facilities in the Aqua Zone which includes a six-lane 25-metre pool; two lanes of the pool have a permanent depth of 2 metres and are separated from the remainder of the pool by a movable boom (wall). The space on the other side of that wall has a full movable floor to allow for flexible use of the pool. The smaller 20-metre pool also has a full movable floor. The splash pool is located in its own hall and offers interactive water features including spray cannons, water jets, a slide and cascades. Adults can take advantage of the luxury spa which allows them to journey through vitality and chill pools, sauna and steam rooms, sanarium, salt grotto and relaxation area.
Indoor facilities include a sports hall with courts for netball, basketball and racquet sports, the gym has three fitness studios and a 110-station gym, there is also conference facilities and a function room for hire. The indoor synthetic turf training area means that sports and training can continue whatever the weather, and there is even a Backlight Adventure Zone which offers mini golf, climbing walls and high ropes. Externally, there is a diversity play area and sensory garden, biking pump track, and a park for skateboarding, scooters, BMX and inline skating.
The versatile nature of the site and the variety of activities on offer - everything from archery to martial arts, scuba diving to pickleball (yes, it’s a thing), means a huge number of visitors have already passed through the doors; it’s this kind of offering and flexible facilities that will meet the needs of our community today and future proof it for years to come.