Following a £1.4 million investment in a new visitor centre, function room and café, Carmarthenshire County Council is celebrating a bumper summer at Pembrey Country Park.
“Pembrey Country Park has always been one of Wales’ top visitor attractions but this summer has been extraordinary in terms of the number of visitors and income generated,” explains Neil Thomas Senior Outdoor Recreation Manager. “Over the summer holidays we have experienced a 10 per cent increase in footfall and a 15 per cent uplift in revenue on last year. There is little doubt that our success is due to the improvements we have made to our facilities.
“The natural beauty of the park, with its 500 acres of woodland and eight miles of golden sands has always attracted visitors but we felt we were not supporting the natural beauty with fit for purpose amenities. For example, we offered limited on site catering provision, in particular for the large numbers of guests staying on our caravan site. We were missing a trick from a customer experience and revenue generation point of venue.”
In 2017, Carmarthenshire County Council tasked Alliance Leisure, via the UK Leisure Framework, to design and build a 400 square foot visitor centre, function room and café. Works got underway in February and were completed in 21 weeks, ready for the summer season.
Neil Thomas, adds: “We took the decision to manage the café in house rather than rent the space to a third party. This has been a great decision. During July and August we served more than 50,000 customers.
“The function room has also been popular. So far, we have hosted children’s parties, corporate events and even have our first wedding booked for 2020. The space occupies 60 square feet and is extremely versatile, offering direct access to outside, the café and the restrooms.
Gillian Dunster, Business Development Manager at Alliance Leisure, says: “Our brief was to design and build facilities which would enhance the member experience and provide opportunities to generate new incomes, creating a sustainable future for the Park.
“The first two months of operation suggest that working in close partnership with the council, we have delivered on both counts. Pembrey County Park is an area of natural beauty and now provides visitors with the infra structure they need to fully enjoy all the activities on offer from dry slope skiing and crazy golf to adventure play, horse riding, camping and nature trails.”
Denbighshire Housing is bucking the national trend for playground closures by investing in play areas across the county.
Working with leisure development specialists Alliance Leisure Services and equipment providers HAGS, Denbighshire has invested almost £900,000 over the last three years in upgrading and improving playgrounds across its housing estates.
Denbighshire Housing has spent more than £420,000 this year alone in renovating play areas in Ruthin, Cynwyd, Rhyl and Henllan with a variety of modern and challenging play equipment. The playgrounds include dedicated areas for children aged two to four years and for those aged four and above.
Specialist equipment has also been installed to make the playgrounds accessible for children with disabilities, along with accessible footpaths, replacement fencing and wet pour surfacing to ensure they can be used all year round.
In addition to the upgrades, a new play park has been built in Rhuallt following consultations with local people. Located in an old school field, the new development will bring play facilities to the community for the first time.
“We want to encourage children to learn through play, which is why our play areas and landscaping improvement programme has started taking shape. We have a planned programme for refurbishments as it is really important to invest in outdoor play and activities for children in safe environments. We also want well maintained and attractive places to live for our communities,” says Tony Thomas, Denbighshire’s lead member for Housing, Regulation and the Environment.
Importantly, Denbighshire Housing will inspect, monitor and repair the play areas to ensure they remain safe, clean and inviting for the future.
“Denbighshire understands the value of play and the important role it plays in the lives of children. Hundreds of playgrounds are being closed across the UK at a time of rising levels of childhood obesity. Denbighshire Housing is one of the few organisations that remains committed to safeguarding the future of its play provision and thereby the health and wellbeing of local children,” says Will Gardner, Business Development Manager, Alliance Leisure.
Alliance Leisure worked with ISG to build a 25m swimming pool and spa within the existing structure of a sports hall. We talk to Mark Gibson, ISG site manager, about this impressive feat of construction engineering.
Q. How did you come to be involved in the scheme?
Alliance Leisure appointed us as principle build contractor to refurbish and extend Monmouth Leisure Centre in South Wales. The £7.4m project was the 18th scheme that Alliance Leisure had awarded us through the UK Leisure Framework. It has certainly been one of the most complicated, but anything is possible with the right team and procurement approach.
Q. What was the brief?
Monmouthshire County Council wanted to future-proof the centre’s facilities while meeting demand in under-represented markets in the area such as health and wellbeing and children’s play. The project would provide a raft of new facilities including a new gym, studios, a toning suite, children’s play area and café. The town had been without a public pool for some years, so the council also wanted the development to include a 25m pool and a spa.
Q. What made the project so complex?
The leisure centre shares its site and some of its facilities with Monmouth Comprehensive School. At the time of the redevelopment, a new home for the school was being built to the left of the leisure centre. With the existing school sitting to the right of the centre, the only place to put the pool was in the leisure centre’s sports hall.
The combination of the location of the leisure centre between the old and new schools, just one access road into the site and 2,000 pupils passing the live construction site every hour made the logistics of the project hugely challenging. We always knew this was going to be a difficult project, but logistically it was more challenging than projects I have run in central London.
Before work could begin on the pool, we had to erect a temporary sports hall to accommodate the school and community while the project was ongoing. We built temporary facilities for the London 2012 Olympics, so were able to construct a high spec, four-court hall in six weeks that was bigger and better than its permanent predecessor.
Q. How did you overcome the challenges?
We worked with Alliance Leisure to develop innovative solutions to a number of challenges caused by the logistical constraints of the site. A single narrow strip – 1.5m at its thinnest point – provided the only access to the hall. We had to remove a section of the elevation to get the necessary piling equipment and plant machinery into the building to facilitate the work.
We stripped the building back to its shell and treated with spray-on insultation to protect and seal the hall and prevent any impact onto the adjoining dry site.
Monmouth has soft ground as well as a high water table, which called for some innovative temporary works solutions and creative piling designs to support the new swimming pool.
The existing concrete slab in the sports hall needed to be broken out before excavation work could commence. However, traditional temporary works solutions could not be implemented due to logistical constraints. An innovative solution was developed to install a king-post wall to form a u-shape around the deep end of the pool. I-beam posts were driven into the bedrock at 1.2m intervals and then railway sleepers were slotted between the beams on top of one another to form a sacrificial support structure. Another bespoke element saw the use of steel tube piles instead of CFA piles. This solution minimised noise and vibration and reduced the volume of arisings produced.
We also used a sprayed concrete system to cast the slab and walls of the pool. Rejecting a typical formwork solution, again due to logistical constraints and to provide a quicker application, we used a specialist lightweight concrete mix. This unorthodox approach delivered significant time savings – with the entire pool completed within a week and designed, built and tested to BS EN 1992-3:2006 standards.
Q. What made this a successful project?
Construction is not about putting blocks on top of each other; it’s about creativity, innovation and changing perceptions. Thanks to our successful partnership with Alliance Leisure, we were able to take a pragmatic approach to the project, value engineering as and when necessary. This included redesigning the spa area to make better use of the space and include a treatment room. You can only make these types of improvements on projects where you have such close collaboration.
To view more details on the Monmouth development visit our case studies page here
This month, Alliance Leisure celebrates its 20th birthday. Here, Founder and CEO, Sarah Watts reflects on the company’s journey to becoming one of the UK’s leading leisure development specialists.
How did ALS get started?
Alliance Leisure Services was created after I realised that the there was a huge need for private sector investment into public sector facilities to enable them to compete with the newly emerging private sector health and fitness facilities. It was at a time, when public sector stock had received little or no investment, so just couldn’t compete, provision was outdated and focused on sport rather than wellness and activity concepts. To bring such a concept to market, I partnered with somebody who had incredible experience in the financial sector and together we created a solution that addressed this market need.
Who was your first development contract with and what was the scope of works?
Hull City Council. In early 2000 Hull City Council decided to sell the telephone exchange which served Kingston Upon Hull. Part of the sale value, approximately £1 million was earmarked for the development of three community gyms but, at the last minute, the resource was reallocated. Life Fitness, the supplier who had been appointed to kit out the promised gyms were understandably disappointed and contacted me, having heard about our finance model.
Alliance Leisure Services provided the initial investment to create the three community gyms, supplied by Life Fitness, and this marked the start of a valued two year relationship, where Alliance Leisure Services worked exclusively with Life Fitness, providing a funding solution to local authorities looking to create or upgrade workout spaces. After this period, Alliance Leisure Services became independent, recognising that many clients preferred to make their own equipment choices. The rest, as they say, is history!
What challenges did you face in these early days and how did you overcome them?
Our finance product started to lose its appeal because it was unable to compete against a newly created Public Loan fund (PWLB) which offered incredibly low interest rates.
In response to these changes in market conditions, we began to position the company more as a development partner, helping local authorities present strong cases for leisure investment based on the far-reaching community benefits in terms of social engagement, cohesion, health and wellbeing.
We also focused on the potential to turn money pits into income generators, using a model which mitigated risk and created financial sustainability.
Have there been any ‘game changers’ or ‘Eureka moments’ in the ALS history
Being appointed as Leisure Development Partner by Denbighshire District Council on the UK Leisure Framework in 2017 has been hugely transformative. Of course, if we did not deliver great value and great service, the Framework would be of no value, but what it has enabled is for clients to appoint us to projects seamlessly. This speeds up the process, allowing clients to benefit from revenue increases much more quickly.
Are there any developments you are most proud of? If so, what makes them special?
Pendle Spa. This was a game changer for us. Back in 2006 we were commissioned by Pendle Leisure Trust to develop a public-sector spa facility in Nelson, an area of high deprivation. Such a project had never been undertaken before and was viewed by many as high risk. The project was an overwhelming success. The leisure industry and local authority interest around this project really helped to put Alliance Leisure Services on the map and enabled us to showcase what could be achieved by stepping outside of the box.
More recently, the development of SC2 in Rhyl. The £17 million visitor attraction opened in April 2019 and is expected to attract more than 350,000 visitors per annum.
Also, the success of our client support services, now rebranded TA6. In 2009 we appointed Paul Woodford to drive this side of the business. Woody has built an incredible team of talent to help leisure operators maximise revenue opportunities. Originally introduced to support our development clients, TA6 now also provides its services independently of Alliance Leisure Services.
What has been the most challenging/toughest part of the ALS story and how did you overcome this?
Balancing running a business and being a mum. This is a challenge for any working mum and my own experience has helped me to become a better manager. It is hugely important to me that the team feel supported both at work and at home. Alliance Leisure Services adopts a very flexible approach to work, allowing individuals to manage their own diaries to fulfil personal and work commitments. I have always found that if you give a little you get more in return. Most of our senior team have been with us for over a decade and I like to think this is because they regard us as a fair and flexible employer.
Can you give an indication of the investment value in build projects ALS has delivered to date?
How many people does ALS employ today?
30 people and growing
Is Brexit impacting your business? If so, how?
Not yet. Alliance Leisure Services continues to enjoy year on year growth. That’s not to say that I don’t foresee challenges ahead. A withdrawal from the EU could have a significant impact on the UK labour market and the cost of build materials. Time will tell.
What are your ambitions for the future of ALS?
To continue to work with local authorities to deliver inspiring, innovative activity hubs which truly engage the communities they serve. Quality leisure provision, although still not mandatory, can have such a huge impact on a community from an economic, health and social perspective and we are working to evidence the ROI on our development projects based on much wider objectives than pure finance.
I also want to maintain year on year financial growth, creating a stable, challenging and fulfilling environment for our team.
Are leisure operators today more or less likely to be investing in their leisure stock than those managing facilities 10 or 20 years ago?
More likely. Our estimated turnover for this current financial year is around 10 times the turnover of just 9 years ago. This reflects the market’s general acceptance of a need to reimagine community leisure provision and a recognition of the far reaching ROI well placed investment can deliver
How bright is the future for our sector moving forwards?
The future is looking positive. The recent Leisure Database State of The Industry Report is quoting a record sector value of £5bn, plus growth in membership, number of facilities and market penetration.
The budget gym sector continues to drive investment in the public sector. Leisure centres are having to compete for members against high quality, affordable, private sector providers which is forcing leisure centre to create new and unique revenue generating opportunities. As a result, we are developing more and more family entertainment hubs which employ technological innovations to stimulate and motivate all ages to be more physically active.
The government agenda is also, finally, recognising the important role leisure facilities can play in the health and wellbeing of the nation. As the national health strategy moves closer to ‘prevention rather than cure’, local authorities will be under pressure to provide fit for purpose facilities capable to work on collaboration with health care service providers.
If you could go back and give advice to yourself as you started on this journey, what would it be?
Tricky one. I have made plenty of mistakes but the learning from each of them have contributed to placing Alliance Leisure Services where it is today so I’m not sure I would want to skip any of them. Everything happens for a reason and challenging times make us stronger. It’s been an incredible journey. I guess, if anything I would say ‘be brave and believe in yourself.’
In a nutshell, what has been the secret of ALS’s success?
Building an amazing team. I feel incredibly fortunate to have cultivated such a dedicated, hard-working team of individuals. Ultimately, we sell concepts and turn them into reality. This takes skill, passion and total belief that we can deliver what we promise.
On a daily basis the team inspire me. I am incredibly proud of all of them.
What will the leisure centre of tomorrow look like and how far away is tomorrow?
Traditional sports such as badminton, volleyball and basketball will be decanted to education and community sports clubs. This will leave leisure centres to evolve more into family entertainment hubs. Co-located services such as cinemas and libraries will become totally integrated with a range of physical activity facilities from swimming pools to fitness spaces, from adventure parks to climbing zones.
Any plans to retire?!
Not yet.This is a truly exciting time to be involved in leisure development and I’m not getting off the bus just yet.
Abbeycroft Leisure, working in Partnership with Alliance Leisure, has achieved an incredible leisure centre makeover in Suffolk. The seven month transformation project has seen a tired and under-used facility reworked into a modern activity hub, all within the existing footprint, all within a budget of £1.5 million, provided by West Suffolk Council.
“The images speak for themselves”, says Tom Fairey, Senior Business Development Manager and project lead at Alliance Leisure. “Working closely with Abbeycroft Leisure and West Suffolk Council we have created a vibrant, modern environment which caters for the whole community and stands out as one of the county’s leading leisure destinations.”
Forming part of West Suffolk Council’s Indoor Sports Facility Strategy, 2015-2031, the investment has been provided to create a resilient, healthy and active community whilst also providing opportunities for economic growth. The project was managed by Alliance Leisure and procured through the UK Leisure Framework.
Tom Fairey, continues: “It is incredible what has been achieved through a reallocation of space across two floors of the 3,097 square foot building. We retained 2-courts in the sports hall and the rest of the space – equivalent to 3 courts, has been remodelled to create a vibrant XHeight Adventure Climbing facility and soft play zone like nothing else available locally. The community was lacking a facility where families could enjoy time together. This development has successfully addressed this issue.”
The development works have also incorporated the Self Centre Health and Wellbeing facility. This area is served by its own, dedicated waiting space and houses three studios, used mainly for holistic classes such as Pilates and Yoga, plus 5 therapy rooms. The facility’s main occupier is Allied Health Professionals (Suffolk) who are the NHS commissioned provider of MSK physiotherapy services. In addition to enhancing the community wellness offer, this provides a rental opportunity for Abbeycroft Leisure, creating a consistent, new, revenue stream.
The gym has been relocated, extended and kitted out with Matrix Fitness equipment plus a large, new studio space has been created which can be separated into two by a central, sliding wall. Space previously dedicated to two under-used squash courts has been reallocated to house a dedicated group cycle studio and modern ‘hot desk’ office space for staff.
Male and female changing rooms have been completely renovated to create a modern ‘changing village’ and a Paddy and Scott café has been incorporated to create a social hub where families and individuals can enjoy a wide selection of quality food and beverages.
Speaking of the development, Warren Smyth, CEO Abbeycroft Leisure, says: “The leisure centre has been completely remodelled to reflect the needs of our modern day community. Since the development completed in January, we have attracted a 32% increase in footfall and revenue is up 16 per cent for the first quarter. We are also seeing uptake from a much wider demographic.
“Based on our experience, I would encourage any Local Authority with an ageing leisure stock to explore opportunities. Tired facilities with a disconnect to the community are a huge drain on already limited resource but we have proved, even with limited capital investment, it is possible to create a sustainable environment which reengages the community and delivers economic, health and social benefits.
“In these times of austerity, we need to look for creative ways to better serve our communities and, working with Alliance Leisure and West Suffolk Council, this is exactly what we have done here.”
We are delighted to hear that tmactive are finalists in the Community Leisure UK Awards 2019. Nominated in the Capital Investment category for the recent Development Project at Larkfield Leisure Centre delivered in partnership with Alliance Leisure, the Community Leisure UK awards aim to recognise, showcase and honour the extraordinary impact of public leisure and cultural services throughout England, Scotland and Wales.
The £1 million redevelopment project was funded entirely by tmactive, with a further £200,000 provided by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council for replacement gym equipment.
The two phased project took 9 months to complete and included building two new group exercise studios and Kent’s first Immersive Spin Studio, providing local people with over 150 group exercises classes to choose from each week.
During Phase 2 of the project, the Gym was extended and redesigned to include brand new market-leading Technogym cardiovascular and resistance equipment which incorporates new Unity screens, providing touch ID, personalization, exercise programming and customer contact software. In addition, a brand new dedicated Functional Training Area was added, complete with the UK’s largest 12 station Outrace Rig that offers scheduled group HIIT and HIIT Circuit classes.
Martin Guyton, tmactive’s Chief Executive is extremely pleased to be nominated for the award: “This was the largest single investment we have made into one our centres since we took over the management from the Borough Council five years ago. Our customers told us they wanted more exercise classes as well as a bigger and better gym, and that’s what we delivered.”
Alliance Leisure Services (ALS) drives growth in the North with the promotion of Tom Gardner to the Business Development team. With seven years’ experience within ALS, Tom has led the National Impact Sales Team whilst acting as a Strategic Partnership Manager to clients across the UK.
The new role sees Gardner move seamlessly from ALS’s client support division, TA6, to business development, where he will help support and grow ALS’s portfolio of public sector partners with a view to regenerating leisure provision in the North of the UK. The varied role will see him work with ALS clients to deliver business planning, feasibility studies as well as the design, build and delivery of leisure facilities.
James Foley, Commercial Director of Alliance, said: “We are delighted to welcome Tom to the Business Development team to help drive our activity in the region. Tom has considerable experience of the client support side of the business, so moving into business development is a natural next step for him and will help us accelerate our growth in the North of England and Scotland.”
Tom Gardner comments: “I am hugely grateful for the opportunities that working for such a progressive company as Alliance has provided me. I have fulfilled a variety of roles, thoroughly enjoying each challenge and look forward to developing further in the Business Development team. This is an exciting avenue for me. I am hugely passionate about our sector, improving the health of our nation and being able to assist in the development of leisure provision is, for me, something to be proud of.”
Alliance Leisure have successfully completed a £1.5m transformation of Haverhill Leisure Centre for West Suffolk Council and Abbeycroft Leisure. The project has already been hailed a huge success, delivered on time and within budget via the UK Leisure Framework.
New users of all ages packed out the new facilities on opening weekend. The centre remained open to the public throughout the 7 month build project which included:
XHeight Adventure Climbing
new enlarged Gym
Paddy & Scott’s café
Self-Centre Health & Wellbeing facility, including 3 x Studios and 7 x Treatment Rooms
New Reception & circulation areas
New Sports Hall floor for the local school!
Watch this space for more photos of this outstanding development, and the full story…
In a bid to get more children and adults more active, Carmarthenshire County Council has invested almost half a million pounds to reinvigorate its leisure provision and create new inspiring spaces for all age groups.
Obesity is a huge problem in Wales . According to the National Survey of Wales (2016-2017), 59 per cent of adults are overweight and 23 per cent are obese. The Child Measurement Programme also reports 26 per cent of reception aged children are obese compared to 22 per cent in England.
Councillor Peter Hughes-Griffiths, Executive Board Member for Leisure, says: “We need to get the population of Wales moving. To do this we must provide inspiring, accessible and diverse activity spaces. Earlier this year, we engaged Alliance Leisure to evaluate the current offer at Carmarthen Leisure Centre and to provide advice and guidance on what could be done to encourage more of the local population to visit. Alliance Leisure has extensive experience of injecting new life into tired leisure facilities and we were excited to explore what could be achieved in Carmarthen. When we saw the plans and worked through the financials, we knew this was a project that we had to get underway.”
In August 2018 works began on transforming the under-utilised gymnastics hall into an inspiring, 3-tier, 210 square metre children’s play area and café.
The new environment has been supplied by industry experts, Play Revolution, and is designed to encourage children aged 0 to 12 years to climb, hide and slide their way around a matrix of visually stimulating features including tunnels, stepping stones, rope bridges and slides. The area also incorporates a dedicated area for 0-3 year olds. The play space is supported by a new café and lounge area where parents can gather to supervise their children whilst enjoying a range of high quality snacks and beverages.
Carl Daniels, Senior Actif Sport and Leisure Manager, says: “Before the development the gymnastics hall welcomed around £4,000 profit per year. In our first month of opening, the new play area is proving to be on target to generate circa £80k income in play centre.
It’s not just the youngsters who have been treated to new facilities. The development has also created a new spin studio. Located in Carmarthen Leisure Centres it’s kitted out with 30 top of the range IC7 Life Fitness spin bikes, this 85 square metre facility has been equipped with state of the art audio and lighting systems to create a stimulating ride like nothing else on offer in the local area.
Carl Daniels, Senior Actif Sport and Leisure Manager adds: “The new cycle studio is awesome and out shines any other facility in the area. The community has fully embraced the experience. We have had to significantly expand the provision to meet demand, but with such high quality non-instructed/virtual classes through the Myride® system we can increase class numbers without a significant increase in costs.”
The development works completed this month and were managed through the UK Leisure Framework, owned and operated by Denbighshire District County Council with Alliance Leisure as lead contractor.
Julia Goddard, Senior Business Development Manager and project lead at Alliance Leisure concludes: “This project has given the leisure centre a new lease of life and made leisure services available to new audiences who were otherwise disengaged. The play area in particular adds a whole new dimension to the offering. In addition to providing a safe, secure space for children to play and explore, it also offers an attractive space for people to meet and socialise.”
South Somerset District Council has appointed leisure development specialists, Alliance Leisure, to work with multi award-winning architecture and building consultancy practice, AHR, to build a brand-new leisure and community facility in Chard’s Town Centre. The new leisure and community facilities will be at the heart of the Chard Regeneration project.
Julia Goddard, Senior Business development Manager at Alliance Leisure, said: “Over the next few months we will work closely with architects AHR to produce outline plans for the overall development. We will also create full design plans for the new leisure centre, aiming for submission by July 2019. Once planning permissions are granted, works will start on the demolition of the factories and warehouses.”
Karle Burford, director at AHR, said “We are thrilled to be working with the Council on the proposals to bring forward a mixed-use community scheme, redeveloping the historic Boden Mill site that includes the former ACI factory site.
Our shared vision to instil the historic nature of the town within the design is integral to the project, and we look forward to harmonising the old with the new. The first phase of the scheme will be designing the brand-new leisure centre, with modern facilities for families to enjoy for years to come.”
The new leisure centre will offer a diverse array of facilities to meet the health and wellbeing needs of the community. These are likely to include: a 25 metre swimming pool; a gym; group exercise studios; an adventure play area; changing rooms and a café.
Councillor Jo Roundell Greene, portfolio holder for the Chard Regeneration Scheme and Deputy Leader of South Somerset District Council, said: “Feedback from a series of public consultations has revealed that people want the development to include: a leisure centre with swimming pool; more places to eat and socialise; improved leisure opportunities for young people; green open spaces and opportunities for small, independent retailers to thrive. We are working with Alliance Leisure to help plan and build this vision.
Alex Parmley the Chief Executive Officer at South Somerset District Council said “Alliance Leisure has years of experience delivering modern leisure developments in tune with community needs. Our new partnership, through the Leisure Framework, will ensure we deliver a mix of facilities and services which offer the local population most value both now and in the future.”
The Boden Mill itself will be redeveloped into a culture and public sector hub with a library, satellite museum, with the police, council and other local service providers who are also likely to be housed in the new facility. Conversion of the upper floors will create a number of residential units for rent or purchase.
All surrounding areas will be landscaped to create an attractive public realm that can be used for social gatherings, public art and community events. The nearby Holyrood Lace Mill will also transformed into a residential development offering a much needed housing solution.
The works will be carried out in phases starting with the new leisure centre and will complete at the end of 2020, subject to planning approval in summer 2019.