Merger unlocks investment in district’s leisure facilities

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The city council’s £11.5 million investment in the district’s leisure centres has taken a major step forward.

Active Life, the not-for-profit charitable trust which operates leisure centres on the city council’s behalf, has merged with the larger Fusion Lifestyle, which is also a registered charity.

Active Life will become a subsidiary of Fusion but retain its identity and a local board to help it run Kingsmead Leisure Centre in Canterbury, Herons Leisure Centre and Bay Sports Arena in Herne Bay and Whitstable Swimming Pool and Whitstable Sports Centre in the town.

The deal signals a new approach to the financial arrangements between the council and the operators. Instead of the council paying a subsidy each year to help fund services, Active Life will be giving the council a set annual payment, which is important income at a time of tight budgets.

The merger is the final piece of the behind-the-scenes jigsaw, and means final preparations can now be made for the council’s multi-million pound investment in Kingsmead Leisure Centre, Herons Leisure Centre and Whitstable Swimming Pool.

Chairman of the council’s Community Committee, Cllr Neil Baker, said: “The demand for facilities that help people get fit and play sport is insatiable in a district like ours.

“With the number of people wanting to take part in classes and other activities outstripping supply, added to the fact some of our facilities have seen better days, the time is right to make this major investment.

“Residents gave us their views via a public consultation and now is the time to get into really detailed design of the facilities and services we are going to offer.

“Active Life’s merger with Fusion Lifestyle combines local knowledge and passion with the expertise and experience of a larger operator which successfully manages a wide range of services across the country. Residents and the council will really reap the benefits from this partnership.”

Artist’s impression of new gym facilities at Kingsmead

Designs will be finalised over the next few months, but at this stage, the Kingsmead plans, costing approximately £10.3 million, include:

  • A new play and climbing area for children and families
  • A new wet changing area with high quality, flexible changing facilities
  • A new café
  • New poolside steam and sauna facilities
  • A bigger dry changing area
  • Conversion of the existing sports hall at first floor level to create a large gym space, including a new interactive high intensity zone
  • Conversion of existing gym into new group exercise studios
  • A bigger car park

At Herons, the plans are costing an estimated £500,000 and currently include:

  • Refurbishment of the foyer and reception areas
  • Refurbishment of the first-floor gym
  • Refurbishment of the existing ground floor studios
  • Refurbishment of ground-floor dry changing facilities including showers

At Whitstable Swimming Pool, the investment totals around £700,000 and currently includes:

  • Improved health and fitness and new group exercise provision
  • Refurbishment of the wet changing facilities
  • Refurbishment of the lobby and toilet areas

Fusion Lifestyle’s Chief Executive, Peter Kay, said: “This partnership between Fusion and Active Life allows both organisations to further their charitable objectives while delivering significant improvements to their leisure facilities and the future financial position to the city council.”

Active Life’s Chief Executive, Neil West, said: “We are delighted to have brought this deal to fruition. It couples continuity of local experience, knowledge and the extensive partnerships that have been established with the robustness and expertise of Fusion Lifestyle.”

Work is expected to get underway at all three sites towards the end of 2019.