Plans to create the south's premier children's play facilities have been announced as part of a £2.5million redevelopment of Portsmouth's Pyramids Centre.
Portsmouth City Council has agreed initial plans set to make the site one of the biggest and best attractions in the region, as a fantastic new Play & Bounce facility as well a big expansion and upgrade to the gym.
The new facilities are expected to open during Spring 2021. Work is planned to start over the coming months and will be carried out in phases to minimise impact. The centre’s gym, exercise studio and Glasshouse event space will remain open throughout. BH Live will liaise closely with event organisers and customers to relocate any activities that are affected.
The investment will result in a giant SuperPlay style attraction - which will include a new soft play and trampoline park, to encourage more children to be active while having fun. Other features to make the centre more accessible will include a Changing Places facility and a sensory area. The gym expansion and new bespoke exercise studios will enable BH Live to broaden its physical activity programme to include classes such as spinning, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and health related exercise courses. This will enable many more residents to improve their health and wellbeing through physical activity. New hospitality areas, including a Fairtrade cafe, will complement the transformation.
The new facilities will replace the current leisure pool and the Plaza events space. The declining popularity of leisure pools has affected the Pyramids Centre with customer numbers falling considerably over a number of years. Over the past 24 months alone there has been a 40% decline in swimming numbers. This means the centre is operating at a £650k loss to the council every year, which is not financially viable long term.
To keep it as a leisure pool would cost around £4 million for initial refurbishment with additional operational costs costing the council an additional £6 million over ten years. That level of investment cannot be justified for a 30 year old building which was designed to last 30 years. The new plans will enable to centre to continue to provide a leisure offer before the building reaches the end of its life.
Chris Symons, Chief Executive from BH Live, the social enterprise which runs the Pyramids Centre for the council, said: "Pyramids is a much loved venue however the facilities are tired and in need of a complete transformation in order to keep bringing people through the doors. These proposed plans would give our community a brand new attraction that is appealing, sustainable, and more importantly, great fun and accessible to all."
Cllr Steve Pitt, the council's Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Economic Development, said: "The pandemic has made it more important than ever to invest in sport and leisure and get more people active. We know many people will be disappointed to lose the leisure pool but we just do not have the money needed to refurbish and run it and cannot justify spending public money on a building which realistically only has about ten years life left. The council is already facing a £14million black hole in this financial year due to Covid 19.
"We are convinced that BH Live's exciting new plans will see more residents and visitors of all ages use the Pyramids Centre to get active and have fun, helping to secure the future of our iconic seafront venue for the next decade. This decision wasn't an easy one but it was inevitable and I am going to make sure that the new Pyramids is something that people can be proud of and will have the additional benefit of dramatically reducing the building's environmental impact. "
Last year, sports specialist Rachel Fowler, from Strategic Leisure, produced an Options Appraisal Report for the council. The report looked at current sports and leisure provision in the city, costs of repair needs now and over the next 5-10 years.
The council has confirmed £350,000 funding will be committed to improve swimming facilities in the south east of the city. Work is underway to establish whether this is best used to maintain Eastney Swimming Pool or develop new swimming facilities in the same area of the city.
Cllr Pitt said, "We're committed to providing fantastic sport and leisure facilities across the city for all residents to access for generations to come, this is at the heart of all decisions and we'll keep everyone informed as any plans develop."
Visit www.portsmouth.gov.uk/sportandleisure to find out more.