Council and partner achieve large scale community engagement in physical activity

A £5 million investment into a failing leisure centre has stimulated large scale community engagement in physical activity. Lancaster City Council partnered with Alliance Leisure to modernise Salt Ayre Leisure Centre and introduce new facilities designed to stimulate wider participation.

The project has triggered a phenomenal turnaround for the centre, which has seen a 72 per cent increase in customer visits in 12 months and a 419 per cent increase in active members from 5,450 to 28,302.

Salt Ayre Leisure Centre used to be an expensive drain on council resources making an annual loss of £800,000. The situation was so bad, that at one point, the Lancaster City Council offered the centre for sale for £1.

Working with Lancaster City Council, Alliance Leisure breathed new life into the facility with a host of new facilities that include the Les Mills immersive cycling experience, the Trip™; Europe’s first outdoor Flight Tower; a 80 station gym, adventure play area, XHeight climbing wall, barista-style café and luxury spa.

“We know that modern leisure centres with the right mix of facilities and services can change lives by engaging people of ages and abilities in activity. Partnering with the private sector allows local authorities to maximise investment in their centres by reducing the risk of rising costs and increasing the possibility of securing additional funding thereby increasing the impact of government capital,” says Paul Cluett, managing director of Alliance Leisure.

An independent impact analysis, conducted by the ukactive Research Institute, found the average number of visits had increased by 161 per cent from 4.1 visits per week to 10.7 visits since the redevelopment.

The centre is attracting more women than ever before with active female membership increasing by 178 per cent to form 58 per cent of the membership base.

Gym membership has grown dramatically rising from approximately 600 to 2,600 in 12 months, while fitness class attendance increased 83 per cent from 9,491 to 17,343.

The new adventure facilities, including XHeight and the Flight Tower, generated more than 10,000 visits to the centre.

The research also showed that the new facilities are attracting people from further afield with users travelling from almost a kilometre further away to use the centre.

The increase in income generated by this uplift in participation will see the development costs repaid and the asset turning a profit within three years, creating a sustainable community service for many years to come.

“Without doubt the decision to invest £5 million in Salt Ayre was one of the most important decisions taken by the city council in recent years. We’re now seeing the clear rewards of that investment and the achievement of our collective ambition of providing affordable leisure and fitness activities to people of all ages and abilities,” says Darren Clifford, Cabinet member with responsibility for culture, leisure and tourism.

The redevelopment of Salt Ayre Leisure Centre is part of a 10-year partnership between Lancaster City Council and Alliance Leisure. In addition to the physical delivery of this project, Alliance Leisure has also entered into a client support partnership to provide support across a number of core functions including marketing, staff training and sales services to ensure the long-term operational and financial success of the project.