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£1m Redevelopment of Larkfield Leisure Centre Gets Underway

tmactive is investing more than £1m in Larkfield Leisure Centre, which it operates on behalf of Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, to meet growing customer demand for group exercise.

The leisure trust has appointed Alliance Leisure Services as development partners for the project. Masterplanned by architects Saunders Boston, the scheme will create three new studio spaces and extend the existing gym by an extra 1200 square feet.

An extension to the front of the centre will house two new group exercise studios, complete with sprung floors, LED mixed lighting and inspirational graphics, allowing tmactive to provide a significantly increased and varied group exercise class programme. The project will also create the centre’s first dedicated group cycling studio, while the extended gym will feature new top of the range cardiovascular and resistance equipment from Technogym, a functional training rig more than twice the size of the current rig, and an expanded freeweights offer. The Technogym equipment will incorporate the new Unity screens providing touch ID, personalisation, exercise programming and customer contact software. The leading equipment is not available anywhere else locally regardless of price point.

The trust is funding the capital works whilst Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council is responsible for more than £200,000 costs on the replacement equipment. The trust is supplementing this budget by further investment to upgrade to the Unity screens and bring new complementary pieces of equipment such as the Octane Zero Runner and Technogym Skill Mill to the gym floor

“The number of people coming to Larkfield Leisure Centre for group exercise classes is growing year on year and we are delighted to be able to respond to this demand with some fantastic new studios. The redevelopment will allow us to accommodate even more users from the local community with an even wider range of group exercise classes. The extension to the gym also reflects patterns of use with increased investment in freeweights, functional training and digital connectivity to ensure our customers gain maximum benefit from working out at Larkfield” says Martin Guyton, chief executive of tmactive.

Tom Fairey, senior business development manager at Alliance Leisure Services, says: “We’ve built up a good relationship with tmactive over the years while looking at various development opportunities for the Trust. As development partners, we are delighted to be working with the team to provide exciting new facilities for the local community at Larkfield by delivering the right scheme at the right budget.”

Work has now started on site with the two new group exercise studios scheduled to open in early April 2018. The gym extension and Spin Studio is due to complete in May 2018.

‘Active Adventure Zone’ set to open doors

Howe BridgeFIRST rate climbing, skating and active play facilities have opened to an overwhelming response at Howe Bridge Leisure Centre upon completion of the eagerly anticipated £2.9m transformation of the site.

The new adventure zone consists of a bespoke skate park also suitable for BMXs and scooters, a large purpose built interactive adventure climbing area, and an innovatively designed adventure play facility offering junior fitness classes and sports sessions to encourage high levels of physical activity.

The redevelopment of the centre has been carried out by leisure specialists Alliance Leisure, in partnership with ISG construction and Pozzoni architects.

Pete Burt, Managing Director of Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles, which manages the centre on behalf of Wigan Council, said: “This project has given a new lease of life to Howe Bridge Leisure Centre and allowed us to offer some fantastic new products to customers. I’d encourage residents to come along and see what’s on offer.”

The first phase of the transformation of the site included a new 80-station gym, sauna and stream room, an indoor virtual cycling studio, studio for group exercise classes and new changing rooms. In addition, a 3G FIFA 2 star pitch has been introduced on site.

James Foley of Alliance Leisure, said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to deliver this project in partnership with the Trust and Wigan Council. We are certain that the increase in participation and revenues resulting from phase 1 of the project, will be matched with the introduction of the new adventure zone, and importantly in introducing ‘new’ participants to an active lifestyle.”

Wigan Council has invested £2.4m in to the project whilst Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles secured £500,000 from the National Lottery’s Sport England Improvement Fund.

Cllr Paul Kenny, Wigan Council’s Cabinet member for Leisure, said: “I’m delighted that we have been able to provide these fantastic leisure facilities for the benefit of residents. It’s a great way of supporting local people of all ages in getting active and healthy as part of the Deal.”

£2.9m Howe Bridge Fitness Suite Opens

Howe Bridge EXT1Howe Bridge Leisure Centre opened its brand new health and fitness suite this week – part of the ongoing £2.9m transformation at the WLCT-operated site.

Members can now take advantage of a new Technogym-equipped 80-station gym, sauna and steamroom, indoor cycling studio, group exercise studio and new changing rooms. As part of the first phase of improvements, the centre’s reception area has also been modernised and a new catering offer, The Subs Bench, has opened for business.

The latest development follows the recent opening of the 3G FIFA 2 star pitch. Next to come is a range of innovative leisure products including adventure climbing, an indoor extreme skate park and adventure play facilities.

Wigan Council has invested £2.4m into the project, while WLCT secured an additional £500,000 from the National Lottery’s Sport England Improvement Fund.

The building is being renovated in partnership with specialist development partner Alliance Leisure and international construction services company ISG. The full scheme is due to be completed by November this year.

“Over the next couple of months a range of facilities for children and young people will be installed, meaning that by the time the full scheme is complete there will be something for all the family on site,” said Pete Burt, managing director of WLCT.

“Howe Bridge is set to become a real hub of activity for people of all ages looking to keep active while having fun.”

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Introducing Alliance Digital

Alliance Digital

Launched last month at the ukActive Flame conference Alliance Digital will provide marketing services to the leisure industry and will continue to provide Digital solutions to Alliance’s existing clients.
John Leaver

John Leaver, previously Head of Partnerships, will move across to manage the Digital Division as Head of Digital.  “This is such an exciting opportunity for Alliance and our clients, ” Leaver commented. “We have been providing Digital marketing services for the past few years but feel now is the time to create this dedicated team.  We’ll be supporting our existing clients with some new products as well as introducing these to the rest of the industry.”

The services offered by Alliance Digital will include:

  • Email Marketing, including SMS outbound and inbound handling
  • Online Advertising
  • Web & Mobile Design
  • Social Media Management
  • SEO
  • Analytics and Insights
  • Customer Communication and Surveys
  • Training Workshops and Staff Development


To find our more about Alliance Digital give John a call on 07909 988532 or drop him an email at

Work Begins to Transform Howe Bridge Sports Centre

The £2.9 million transformation of Howe Bridge Sports Centre into a first class family fitness facility has begun. WLCT Howe Bridge Work Starts 5Alliance Leisure is working in partnership with Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust (WLCT) and construction company ISG construction, to renovate the building on behalf of Wigan Council.

The first phase of the project will see a new health and fitness suite developed on the first floor, the creation of a new lobby and café plus new cladding put on the building outside. As part of the new strategic partnership for leisure, Wigan Council has invested £2.4m in to the project. Leisure partner WLCT secured £500,000 from the National Lottery’s Sport England Improvement Fund as added investment to the project.

Cllr Paul Kenny, cabinet member for resources at Wigan Council, said: “I’m delighted to see the physical works starting on this project, which will bring new, improved leisure opportunities to people in Wigan Borough. As part of the Deal we want to encourage people in our communities to get more active and the facilities that we are providing at Howe Bridge Sports Centre will enable residents to do just that.”

Pete Burt, managing director of WLCT, said: “We’re extremely excited about what’s happening at Howe Bridge and really proud that we will be managing the new centre. This is all part of our ongoing commitment to Wigan Council to support investment into leisure facilities and use our industry expertise to deliver the activities and services that will make fitness fun and change the lives of local people.”

James Foley, business development manager for Alliance Leisure said: “We are delighted to work in partnership with both the council and trust to bring to life this innovative Sport England-supported scheme. The project will transform the site dramatically and it is a pleasure to be able to help make an impact at a local level in my hometown, returning to the facilities I myself learnt to swim in over 30 years ago!”

The new centre will combine traditional sports facilities with a high quality health and fitness suite and innovative leisure products including VerTGo Adventure Climbing, Indoor Extreme Skate Park and adventure play facilities. The new health and fitness suite will include an 80-station gym, sauna and steam room, a spinning studio, a studio for group fitness and new changing rooms. The centre’s reception area will also be opened up and an enhanced catering and vending offer introduced. In addition, a high quality, synthetic football and rugby-compliant pitch will be introduced on site. The downstairs gym will remain open while the works are carried out so there will be no disruption for customers.

Work on the scheme is due to be completed by November.

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Why retention is just as important as sales this New Year

Sales, sales, sales

After the hush of December comes the rush in the New Year. Sites plan, prepare, promote, sell, chase, prospect, sell again in the hope of smashing that elusive sales target. But is your attention too focused on the conveyor belt of new sales rather than looking after those new and existing members who’ve been with you through the chocolate-enticing, turkey-filled December?

Does your New Year promotion brief mention retaining these new customers? A member’s lifetime value is heavily affected by their experience during the first month after joining. And that starts on their very first visit to have a look around. This is a great opportunity to show the customer how you will support them on their quest to achievetheir health and fitness goals. Member testimonial displays and ‘meet the staff’ boards will give them confidence that your club really can make a difference.

So what happens next? A compulsory group induction for health and safety reasons or a 1-to-1 personalised appointment asking the right lifestyle questions to uncover their likes, dislikes, exercise history, barriers, exercise habits, reasons and goals. You decide which sounds more enticing!  Remind your fitness team that goal setting is more than accepting ‘get fit’ or ‘lose weight’ as a goal, and that SMART goals are the way forward. Take some measurements,  where appropriate, to define a starting point and set clear, achievable and enjoyable objectives.  All customers should be then be booked a second appointment to start their member journey and receive their personalised exercise programme. A welcome letter, guest passes for friends, advice on other facility activities all help to make that welcome a little more special.

But what if the customer throws in the towel before even starting and doesn’t come back for that second appointment? Having a customer contact strategy that identifies these customers and does something about it is essential. Regular contact with members is not a bad thing (despite rumours of waking sleeping members). Yes, we wouldn’t want to particularly contact a customer we haven’t seen in 6 months but why have we left it so long anyway? Identifying your ‘at-risk’ customers on a daily or weekly basis will help lower your cancellation rate if you contact them to get them re-started.

And for those customers making the repeat visits let’s not forget how important interactions are – not just with the fitness team but with all members of staff they come into contact with. A fantastic interaction is one that causes the customer to make another visit within 7 days, ideally using a fitness challenge to encourage them to do so. There are many excuses for interacting with customers; gym challenges, referral incentives, re-programme opportunity, technique correction, spotting, new exercises, class suggestion, new member introduction. Your fitness team should have a bank of these tools so they can never say they don’t know how to approach a member.

So finally, let’s not just concentrate on the gym. How are you looking after your class members and swimmers? The industry knows that encouraging visits in the early weeks of membership delivers longer length of stay, so how are you incentivising these groups to come back? Suggesting which classes best suit the individual and then booking their first 2 or 3 might encourage a few more visits than they had planned that week. Offer your swimmers a swim clinic drop-in session where they can get advice on technique or a personal programme setting. Set challenges that reward on attendance and get all your staff promoting length of stay and not just the initial sale.

January is a great month for new sales and February is just as good, so don’t miss the opportunity to keep these new members longer than last year. Would you rather have 100 new sales who stay a couple of months or 100 new sales who are still with you in 2016? Look after your existing members, motivate your new customers to keep up the new regime and identify those who are most at-risk of dropping off. Good luck.