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Sports Centre honours former Villa Chairman

Ron Atkinson with Doug Ellis on the new gym equipment

Former Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis OBE, an Aston University honorary graduate and keen supporter of community sports development, officially opened the £5m refurbishment of the University’s historic Woodcock Sports Centre, which has been renamed The Doug Ellis Woodcock Sports Centre on Monday (3 October).

The Aston Villa Lifetime President made the lead gift towards the new Centre, along with more than 300 other alumni, friends, trusts and foundations. Their support helped to transform the facility into a modern, vibrant sports facility for use by students, local schools and community groups and members of the public.

Aston University took over the Sports Centre building from the City Council in 1980 for the nominal price of £1, when it was then known as the Woodcock Street Baths and Laundry. The remodelled Centre still retains its unique historic features and characteristics, including its original tiled floors and walls and its Grade II listed swimming pool – Birmingham’s oldest working swimming pool.

Visitors to the new Centre will be able to enjoy a range of facilities including;

  • A new 120-station fitness suite with latest cardiovascular machines and weights

  • A new two-storey facility with martial arts, fitness and dance studios

  • A refurbished sports hall and swimming pool

  • A new sauna, steam room and changing rooms

  • Improved badminton, basketball and netball facilities.

Professor Julia King said the University was delighted that the building was being named in recognition of Doug’s generosity.

“The Doug Ellis Woodcock Sports Centre highlights the University’s commitment to providing first rate sports facilities that will make a real difference to the City. The Centre will greatly benefit our own students’ campus experience, external sports clubs which regularly use our facilities, and local schools and others living around us in the City and the West Midlands. Doug has been a keen supporter of community sports development and this re-dedication ensures that future generations will remember his legacy of generosity to the whole of our region.”

Sheila O’Neal, Executive Director of Development and Alumni Relations, added; “We’d like to thank all of the Aston alumni and benefactors who have personally contributed towards the redevelopment of this important sports facility within the heart of the City. We are very proud to have a strong alumni body, which yet again has supported Aston University and its commitment to student and community engagement.”

Speaking at the official launch event, Doug Ellis said; “Having lived and worked in and around Birmingham since 1948 I was aware of what was for many years simply ‘Woodcock Street Baths’ but it was only when the regeneration project was brought to my attention by Sir Adrian Cadbury that I appreciated just what a grand old building it was.

“Although I hope to be around for a good few years, when you get to my age your mind inevitably turns to the legacies you would like to leave behind. I cannot think of a better legacy than to be associated with the regeneration of Aston’s Sports Centre, which will continue to serve coming generations of Aston students and the wider community.”

Aston University Sport Website

Words by Alex Earnshaw
3 October 2011

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