CONTROL of the Abbey Stadium could be handed over to a leisure trust in a bid to ensure its long-term future.
The move would result in greater investment in the building including from the private sector, expansion of services on offer and allow it to compete with other gyms in the area, according to councillors who have been reviewing the stadium’s future.
The new look Abbey Stadium opened in February 2012 following a £6.5million revamp including an extended gym and new swimming pool. Membership quickly exceeded the 2,500 target but has fallen back to 2,100 due to increased competition from new gyms opening.
Members of the Abbey Stadium Task and Finish Group have expressed concern without major investment the centre will struggle to attract and retain members as other venues offer steam rooms, saunas and a range of therapeutic services on top of the traditional gym facilities.
Coun Carole Gandy, chair of the group, told an overview and scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday (June 17) it was clear significant investment would be needed in the building which Redditch Borough Council would struggle to make given the current financial climate.
“We all feel passionately about the Abbey Stadium and want it to go from strength to strength and to do so while dealing with the increase in competition and do not underestimate the significant competition there is because it is a concern.” she said.
“In order to cope with that competition there does need to be significant investment in the Abbey Stadium and it will be necessary for the council to make that investment in order to keep pace with other centres. These recommendations should address the issues facing the council and the Abbey Stadium going forward.”
Leisure trusts are independent organisations that manage leisure centres on behalf of councils. They can operate in numerous ways and examples include Wychavon Leisure, which runs centres in Evesham, Pershore and Bromsgrove, and
Everyone Active which is responsible for Stratford Leisure Centre.
Coun Gandy added through contract negotiations the council could retain some control by specifying what services they wanted provided, such as free swimming sessions, and setting performance targets.
Should the move be given the green light by the council’s decision-making executive committee next Tuesday (June 24) there is also the potential for the trust’s remit to be extended to include other leisure services such as Arrow Vale and Kingsley sports centres, The Palace Theatre and Forge Mill.
Councillors have also recommended if the creation of a leisure trust is approved then therapeutic services, such as sports massage, and a sauna/steam room should be added to the Abbey Stadium. The group also wants to see better marketing of the centre and a drive to promote membership among residents aged 55 and over.