With the official planning decision notice still predictably delayed, the Community Stadium development contract cannot yet be signed.
This means that potential contractor GLL cannot take over the running of leisure facilities like Energise in Acomb.
GLL were the managers of the Huntington Stadium and the adjacent Waterworld facility, but both closed about 6 months ago.
We understand that staff at the successful Energise leisure centre have been told that a proposed 1st June handover date has now been shelved.
There never seemed any real possibility that the Secretary of State would decide whether or not to call in the Community Stadium plans before the General Election.
June seemed the earliest likely decision date but even that could be optimistic if the election result is not – as appears likely to be the case – clear cut.
The July 2016 opening date for the stadium continues to look very optimistic.
The project is running over 2 years behind schedule mainly as a result of a decision by some Labour Councillors to privatise all the City’s leisure facilities into one contract.
This led to the closure of Waterworld and a threat to future of the Yearsley Pool.
It also added £8 million to the taxpayers bill for the project.
Yearsley still second most popular facility in City
Figures released today, by the York Council under Freedom of Information legislation, cast further doubts on the wisdom of jettisoning the Yearsley swimming pool.
The latter, in its first full year of operation, had 110,218 customers making it the least popular swimming facility in the City.
The new pool does, however, seem to have attracted some additional customers as total swims in the City (excluding private and school based pools) rose from 508,125 in 2012/13 to 522,65 last year.
The figures also reveal that swimming receives a £1/2 million subsidy each year from taxpayers. That is relatively modest comparison to historical investment levels.
While Yearsley is the most expensive pool to operate, it doesn’t enjoy any cross subsidy from other activities – like fitness and studio work – which accounted for most of the income at the other pool sites.
Without the cooperation of Nestle, who own the surrounding land, it would be impossible to increase the range of sports catered for at the Yearsley site.
All in all, closing both Waterworld and Yearsley and replacing the facilities with a single – sports village style clone pool – does increasingly seem to be a major misjudgement by the Council.
Residents are clearly looking for a wider range of water activities and locations in the City.
Future of Waterworld and Yearsley pools under threat
Labour are circulating a glossy brochure ahead of the publication of a report on the future of leisure provision in the City. Private briefings to staff and media have raised serious issues about the future of swimming and other facilities in the City.
The project will now cost £37 million in total with Greenwich Leisure (who have operated Waterworld for the last 3 years) taking on responsibility for all major sporting and swimming facilities in the City.
Greenwich Leisure are a CIC although the level of local York engagement – if any – in their management decisions and structure has yet to be announced.
The project will cost taxpayers £8 million more than originally budgeted. It had been expected that a 6000 seater stadium and replacement athletics track could be built for the £12 million contribution from the John Lewis development. The Council would have contributed only the value of the Huntington Stadium site (conservatively assessed as £4.1 million). The Football Foundation would have put in the £2 million that it had loaned against the value of a redeveloped Bootham Crescent.
Later Labour said that they would spend the £4 million contingency included in the Councils budget for the project. This had been included as a potential loan which would be repaid from stadium income.
Now Labour are stating that they will borrow an additional £4 million bringing the taxpayers contribution up to £8 million in total, with the stadium capacity increased to 8000 (it costs roughly £1 million for every additional bank of 1000 seats).
It is highly unlikely that such an additional burden could be passed on to the Football and Rugby clubs with details of their rental agreements not having yet been revealed.
At a time when the campaign for” safe standing” – backed by the Liberal Democrats is gaining momentum – local fans will be bemused that the design does not appear to provide for rail seats (although this modification could still be made)
Council taxpayers will be responsible for the debt repayment charges on the amount borrowed which will be around £600,000 a year. It is far from clear where this money will come from although some additional “commercial elements” have been designed into the scheme.
Given the controversy about out of city centre shopping, this raises doubts about how long the planning process might take and with it the ability of any contractor to meet a July 2016 opening date.
Waterworld and its associated gym will close in December.
A new pool and gym will be designed into the stadium. However it will be more conventional than Waterworld with only a small “fun” pool included.
Waterworld is only 20 years old and with that kind of life one wonders how durable such facilities now are? (The Barbican pool lasted for 40 years, Yearsley is over 100 years old)
Since the opening of the Sports Village on Hull Road, the Council has met national standards for the provision of swimming pools. There is insufficient demand to pay for an additional swimming pool (which is why Labour quietly dropped their plans for a city centre pool).
Under Labours plans, the opening of the new pool at Huntington will mean the end of the Council subsidy (around £250k pa) for the Yearsley pool. The unique 50 yard pool has fought off two previous attempts by Labour to close it although ironically in early 2011 – following a £1 million refit undertaken by the then LibDem controlled Council – Labour invented a bogus “closure” rumour and campaigned against something that was not going to happen. A new boiler was fitted at the pool meaning that the steam heat supply from the Nestle site could not attract disproportionately high charges.
Labour have now performed a 180 degree policy about turn.
The only chance for the pool would be for users to acquire the site and run it independently as a community asset. However it is highly unlikely that that increased admission charges could make up the financial deficit – more so as it would have to complete with three other modern pools in the City not to mention those at several independent sports clubs, hotels and schools.
Its only hope would be for Nestle to relent and allow a profitable gym to be added although this might involve them losing some car parking space.
The management of Energise – the sports facility on Cornlands Road – seems less threatened by the take over plans.
The centre is very popular and no doubt Greenwich Leisure will want to keep it that way. However standardisation of charges and facilities, together with focusing some types of provision at just one site, may prove to be a challenge in the future.
No guarantees are being offered on admission charges although heavy competition from the private sector may help to keep them down.
The Stadium project is running over two years behind timetable. The publication of a report, for decision by the Councils Cabinet on 9th September, is belated but welcome.
Residents will be looking very carefully at the business plan for the new facility as the Council – which will remain the freeholder – does not want to risk having to step in to recover a failing project a few years down the line (as happened in Huddersfield a few years ago).
The changes to the retail component of the project do raise planning issues that may take some time to resolve, jeopardising the construction start date..
Whether a July 2016 opening date is realistic remains to be seen.
A husband and wife team has won a 6 month Tour de France challenge which was set by Energise for its members in January.
Jack and Jill Whitham were first to successfully complete the 2,271 mile challenge to cycle, run and swim or climb the Tour de France distance prior to the Grand Départ Stage 2 leaving York on Sunday 6 July.
Jill Whitham said: “We thought it would be impossible at first but found that the challenge really gave us the push to increase cardio workouts and achieve our goal weights. It also encouraged us to try more on the bikes and the rower. We will be going out to watch the Tour de France as it is on our doorstep this year.”
Paul Bickle, Manager of Energise said: “All the staff would like to give them our congratulations and we’re glad that the challenge helped them both to achieve their goals. As a prize they have chosen the Go Ape Tree Top adventure at Dalby Forest. The individual winner category is still up for grabs and we are encouraging all our members to have a go.”
Energise is encouraging York residents to get back in the water this summer for British Gas SwimBritain 2014.
Supported by a host of big-name swimmers including fellow London 2012 medallists Ellie Simmonds, Michael Jamieson, Rebecca Adlington, Keri Anne Payne and comedian David Walliams, SwimBritain is a series of fun team relays that are taking place this September which hopes to inspire 500,000 people across Britain to swim more regularly – and get fit!
Swimmers can take the challenge in 2 ways.
SwimBritain1000 is a four-person relay where each team member swims 250m four times around a specially-designed course in a dedicated 50m pool.
SwimBritain500 is a shorter distance where team members use the same course, swimming half the distance (125m four times) and the nearest participating venue to York is Ponds Ford in Sheffield.
Rebecca Adlington, who retired from competitive swimming at the age of 23 last year as Britain’s most successful swimmer, said: “I may have retired from professional swimming but I will always love being in the water and a challenge like British Gas SwimBritain is brilliant as it’s really inclusive – not just for professional swimmers. Swimming offers everyone a full range of health and fitness benefits so the more people we can encourage to swim regularly, the better. It’s a full body workout without any stress on the joints. A gentle half hour swim can burn up to 200 calories, so I’d love to see as many people as possible joining in and giving SwimBritain a go.”
Swimfit at Energise costs £3.85 for adults with a York Card and £4.80 without. There is no need to book in advance.
Registrations are now open. For further information on venues, how to sign up your team and get training plans and tips, visit swimbritain.co.uk/challenge
York’s over-50s can get into gear for the very popular third Eng-AGE 50+ Activity Day which will take place on Monday 17 February from 9.30am to 4pm at Energise.
The day is the first big sport and activity event of the 2014 health and fitness calendar, in a year when York residents are being encouraged and inspired by the Tour de France to do more physical activity.
With the Tour de France setting off from York on 6 July it’s only right that this year we have included some bicycle related activities for the over 50s such as beginners spin classes, cycle maintenance and cycle training. This is a great opportunity to try some activities, meet new people, have fun and become fitter all at the same time!
The day is led by coaches and fitness professionals who will give those taking part the confidence to have a go at different sports and physical activity sessions in a friendly and supportive environment. Useful information will also be provided on where and how to continue the activity at venues across York. A wide range of other activities are on offer to sample and include group classes of tai chi, aquafit, swimfit, synchronised swimming, pilates, short tennis, badminton, yoga, boxercise, chair based exercise, inclusive sports and zumba gold. Individual and team challenges in orienteering have been introduced and the popular introductions to the gym and climbing wall will also be available.
Participants may join in either morning or afternoon sessions at a cost of £3 per half day, or may attend for the full day for £5.
Further information, including a full timetable of events is available at www.york.gov.uk/engage and from libraries. Booking opens at 9am on Monday 3 February on a first come basis by calling Catriona Sudlow, City of York Council’s older peoples physical activity officer on 01904 553377.
Energise has passed a tough assessment from Sport England’s leading national quality scheme, Quest, in which it scored Excellent. Quest is the most well known improvement programme within the leisure industry and its rigorous assessments challenge even the very best leisure centres in the UK.
In order to achieve Quest Plus, Energise went through a two year process, with a mystery visit and a two day assessment in the first year, and a second mystery visit and one day assessment in the second year.
The mystery visit in year two is particularly challenging as the mystery visitor does not work in the leisure industry.
Two York swimming pools are inviting swimmers to get on their marks and sign up to join others nationwide to raise awareness of the benefits of the sport and to fundraise for charity.
Swimmers in York will take the plunge at Energise on Saturday 22 March and Yearsley Pool on Sunday 23 March 2014 as they take on the Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Swimathon.
There are set distances of 1.5 kilometres, 2.5k or 5k for individuals or you can form a relay squad to take part in the Swimathon with your friends.
Entries are now open, so sign up, get training and help make this an even more successful event than last year.