Birchwood Leisure Centre has opened its doors to customers following the £1.5m redevelopment of the centre by Alliance Leisure.

Operated by Active Nation on behalf of City of Lincoln Council since 2007, the centre had begun to outgrow its facilities with overcrowding in the gym and studio space unable to accommodate the expanding programme of classes.  The improvement programme, funded by City Of Lincoln Council, includes a new gym which increases the number of stations from 30 to 100 with new equipment, a larger free weights area and small group training space. It also includes the region’s first fully immersive group cycling studio from Les Mills with a cinema-scale screen and sound system.

A new soft play area and XHeight Adventure Climbing facility will allow the centre to increase its exercise offerings for children and expand its party packages giving it greater reach in the family market, while the Shapemaster power-assisted exercise studio, the city’s first, provides an opportunity to develop its work in rehabilitation, exercise referral and care for older people.

A new Costa ‘Proud to Serve’ café along with a new display area for the local RAF 50 & 61 Squadron Association memorabilia completes the refurbishment project, which Active Nation believes will increase its membership base from 1,000 to more than 2,000.

XHeigh Adventure Climbing

Soft Play

New Gym

Les Mills Immersive Studio

Costa Coffee Cafe

Toning Suite


Stuart Glover (Salt Ayre Centre Manager) and Lancaster City Council colleague Helen McMahon receiving the award on the evening.
Photo by Tangerine Event Photography

Lancaster City Council has been awarded the Connected Procurement and Commissioning Innovation award by iNetwork for works carried out as part of a £5 million investment in Salt Ayre Leisure Centre.

New attractions to the centre include the Les Mills immersive cycling experience, the Trip™; Europe’s first outdoor Flight Tower; an 80-station gym largely; adventure play area; XHeight climbing wall; barista-style café and a luxury spa.

Since the redevelopment, community engagement has soured with visits to the centre increasing by more than 20,000. Gym and fitness class attendance is up by 83 per cent and active members have more than doubled. The new family friendly facilities have also proved popular with more than 200 youngsters taking out the a newly available junior membership.

As part of a 10-year development partnership with Lancaster City Council, Alliance lead the project which has seen a failing leisure centre with a large subsidy in excess of half a million pounds a year transformed to a thriving physical activity hub, projected to be revenue-neutral within three years of project completion.

The Council’s award submission states: ‘The multi-disciplined professional team delivered the project by commissioning a specialist leisure development partner [Alliance Leisure] with experience of multiple project delivery which has allowed the most expedient and efficient route to delivering the ambitious expectations of members and customers. This was a large and complex project and the team have delivered a redevelopment that has exceeded all expectations.’

Coun Darren Clifford, cabinet member with responsibility for sport and leisure, said: “From the outset it was evident that Salt Ayre had to change its offer to increase the number of customers and income and reduce the operating cost to the council and secure its future. This was a large and complex project and the team have delivered a redevelopment that has exceeded all expectations. This award celebrates that work and everyone involved should be hugely proud of what they have helped the council to deliver – a hub for fitness and leisure which has seen significant increases in income, membership and participation.”

James Foley, project lead at Alliance Leisure, says: “Congratulations to Lancaster Council on winning this award. It took some real visionary thinking and trust in the fact that the community would embrace the investment to make this project the success it has turned out to be. This project has created a sustainable leisure provision which will be enjoyed for many years to come. Well done Lancaster City Council!