Bowlee Park Sports Centre and St Mary’s artificial turf pitch (ATP) both closed in March this year due to COVID-19 and haven't been able to reopen with a COVID secure environment due to the layout of the centre.
The layout of the sports centre, which includes narrow corridors, means that it is not possible to implement social distancing measures safely throughout the whole centre.
The charity which manages leisure and cultural venues in Rochdale on behalf of the Council was asked to review the service provision as part of the Council's strategic review.
The review focussed on areas of business with declining uptake or where sustainability, in financial terms, over the next one to three years would be most challenging, whilst protecting areas where there was increasing demand on services.
During the closure, discussions have taken place between Link4Life and Rochdale Borough Council regarding the longer term sustainability of both the sports centre and the ATP.
The Indoor Sports Built Facilities Strategy adopted by the Council in July 2020, highlighted Bowlee Park Sport Centre as being poorly performing in terms of income, visitor numbers and efficiency.
It showed that the sports centre is dated and not to the standards of modern leisure facilities with increasing maintenance and operating costs making the centre financially unviable.
St Mary’s ATP has seen a significant reduction in the number of bookings as the provision of ATP’s across the borough has increased in recent years and the pitch requires significant investment to update the playing surface which is unsustainable for Link4Life as a charity.
Taking into account the restrictions of covid-19 on the future operation of the centre, the overall building condition, usage levels and the high operating costs, Link4Life have concluded that it is no longer viable for them, as a charity, to be the leisure operator of Bowlee Sports Centre and St Mary’s ATP.
As a result, the centre will be handed back to Rochdale Borough Council who will consider alternative options for the facilities with the goal of ensuring the centre can be utilised by the community in the future albeit potentially for a different use.
Andy King, CEO of Link4Life, said:
“It is with sadness that Link4Life will no longer manage Bowlee Park Sports Centre and St Mary’s ATP.
"With ongoing financial pressures, the outcomes of the Indoor Sports Built Facilities Strategy and the investment required to the pitch at St Mary’s, it is not viable for Link4Life to continue the management of either venue.
"As the sports centre has been unable to re-open due to social distancing measures, we contacted all health and fitness members to provide access to Middleton Arena so that they could return to exercise and this will continue so that there is minimal disruption to their membership.
"Our team are currently in the process of contacting all those who booked activities to provide refunds for any paid bookings and to provide assistance in finding alternative provision where we are able to”.
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