In just one year, Bridlington’s stunning new leisure centre has become a building which is the envy of many parts of the UK.
Membership has tripled, jobs have been created, it is showing a profit and almost every expectation has been exceeded.
This week marked the first anniversary of the opening of a building which has transformed Bridlington.
High-profile guests have included the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, reality TV star Vicky Pattison and Olympic stars Rebecca Adlington and Gail Emms, who visited for the official opening.
But the centre is very much about the local people who use it week in week out.
Manager Adam Mainprize said: “We started off with 1,300 members and our aspiration for the first month was 140 new members.
“We exceeded that with 1,400 new members, and we currently have around 3,900. Over the year, the expectation was that we would get 1,000 extra members.
“That has allowed us to react to customers’ comments. For example, one group wanted five table tennis tables, and we only had two, but the success of our recruitment allowed us to buy the three extra tables.
“It’s challenging but it’s a good challenge. Everybody knows the old Leisure World wasn’t fit for purpose, it was showing its age and it was a burden on the council financially.”
The multi-million pound new building, in its prime location on the seafront, is a world away from its predecessor, and also allowed the sports centre in Gypsey Road to be passed into the hands of Bridlington Club for Young People.
So, is there anything the manager misses about the old place, which had the 3Bs Theatre and an indoor bowls hall, as well as the pool.
“Nothing,” said Adam emphatically, even though he started work there in 1988 and worked his way up to management.
“I stumbled into it. My career aspirations were to join the forces.
“I gave the Navy a go but had to come out because of damage to my knee. My brother said they were looking for a cleaner at Leisure World and the rest is history.
“It’s a massive responsibility, not just the operational requirements in terms of income and expenditure.
“This new centre brings higher customer expectations, which is a massive challenge for the staff to manage.”
The new East Riding Leisure Bridlington opened on May 23, 2016, but tours had been run for members of the public in the run-up to the big day.
“In the first week, we had 15,000 people just looking around the building. The first week everything opened to the public, we were inundated,” said Adam
“And we didn’t know how well it would be received by users, because what looks good on paper might not work in practice.
“We are constantly looking at what other equipment we can bring in, while keeping plenty of space for people to work out in.”
A new addition which will be up and running soon is a hi-tech body scanner, which can give all manner of measurements to help gym users monitor their health and help them lose weight.
Adam also said he wants to put a bigger focus on the educational opportunities a modern facility can give, training lifeguards and other staff so they can obtain qualifications to set them up for a career in the leisure industry.
“At the sports hall, we had approximately 20 members of staff, here we have up to 130 full and part-time workers and with casual staff on top of that, you are looking at 150 people, and we are looking at how we can expand that as well.
“We have got a year under our belts and we didn’t want to change too much, too soon, but we need to meet the demand.”
Staff are at the centre from 6am, every weekday morning, ready to open the gym and the pool at 6.30am. But people are still keen to see it open even earlier so they can use the facilities before starting work and it is one idea which is being considered.
“We are busier than you realise first thing, but then we have a membership option which is cheaper and lets people use the gym from 9am, and that time signals the start of another peak.
“We are consistently busy,” said Adam.
And while the old Leisure World emptied when the weather was good, the new centre is proving to be popular rain or shine.
“In the summer, if it was nice and sunny, you could guarantee the Leisure World building would be quiet because everyone wanted to be outside. Even on the sunniest days, this building is very, very busy.”
The new slides and splash zone are hugely popular with families but there is one feature of the old attraction which staff feared might be missed by the public.
“We were prepared for one of the biggest criticisms to be ‘where’s the wave machine?’ but we made a brave decision,” said Adam. “It removed a lot of expenditure, the power required to move a body of water is quite astronomical.
“We were expecting complaints but we haven’t had any. And you need to remember the old wave machine was only used at at weekends and school holidays.
“But on the whole, the centre has been well received. The comments are fantastic and the positive feedback far outweighs the negative. And the issues that have been raised are nothing that we can’t sort.”
There are a few changes that Adam admits he would have made.
Even with more than 120 spaces, three times more than on the original site, parking has been something of a problem at times. A multi-storey car park incorporated in to the design would have helped, but with the budget capped, the cost of that would have meant losing something of an equal value elsewhere.
And there is one sport which is enjoy a surprise boom in Bridlington.
“In hindsight, we should have had an increase in the number of squash courts, but having two was based on historical usage,” Adam added.
They are minor issues in the grand scheme of a grand and award-winning building, which is about the coffee machines as much as the exercise bikes. Adam said: “We wanted to build a central hub for Bridlington, not just somewhere for people to participate in sport, but somewhere they could come down on a social basis and enjoy the fantastic views. The cafe has far exceeded expectations.
“For the council to spend in excess of £20million, it was brave, but it has already made Bridlington a healthier place.
“People who may have had issues with weight or a lack of exercise can access our facilities through their GPs and it helps them to make healthy lifestyle changes.”
Happy birthday East Riding Leisure Bridlington.