The long awaited refurbishment of Woodcock Sports Centre will commence in early August after the proposals recently received a thumbs up from Birmingham City Council planners and approval from the University Council. Aspects caught up with Mike Kirkman, Head of Sport and Recreation at Aston, to find out exactly what the plans are for the redevelopment and what it means for Aston staff and students.
Aston University took over the Woodcock Sports Centre building from the City Council in 1980 for the nominal price of £1! Known then as the 'Woodcock Street Baths and Laundry', the university converted the former gala pool into the existing sports hall and put a new roof over the existing first class pool in order that it could be re-opened. This was achieved with the help of a £90,000 grant from the University Grants Commission (now HEFCE). The pool was originally constructed in 1902 and is now the oldest operating swimming pool in Birmingham - and one of the oldest in the UK. In 2003 the old ‘laundry area’ was converted into a gym but whilst the range and quality of facilities inside the building have improved over the years, little has been done since to the structure of this very old building. Now a very exciting new chapter in the Woodcock's history is about to take place.
A 54 week contract to complete the refurbishment will start in August this year. Key developments include:
Essential structural repairs to the building
An overhaul and upgrade of all mechanical and electrical services
Demolition work in order to reconfigure the interior layout
The creation of new changing facilities for the swimming pool - although the cubicles will remain as these are a historical feature of this listed building
New male and female changing areas for sports hall and gym users
A significant improvement and extension to the gym
A new two storey martial arts and dance studio that will double the current capacity, provide a wider range of activities to be undertaken and enable more dance based classes to take place – all of which should increase female participation.
Mike explains "The Woodcock Sports Centre is a listed building and since the University took it over in 1980 many of the facilities have remained the same. What has changed in that time is the ever increasing number of visitors who use the Centre. There are now well over 280,000 visits a year and it's important that this redevelopment of the building takes place at this time to provide Aston with outstanding sports facilities for staff, students and the wider community. The redevelopment will also see the Woodcock Sports Centre vastly improve its access for disabled customers.
"By investing in a new two storey extension, Sport Aston will be able to expand its range of dance, yoga and aerobic classes and create more opportunities for female participation which is important for Aston's multi-cultural population as these facilities are greatly needed. This is going to create a wonderful facility for many generations to come and we are delighted to have been given the go ahead for this project."
During the Woodcock's closure, Sport Aston will be providing high quality temporary gym facilities on Priestley Warf which is located on the Science Park just 100 metres from the Woodcock Sports Centre. All the Gym equipment will be re-located and changing facilities and showers will be provided. Existing memberships will continue and the new facilities will be open from the from Monday 2 August as Woodcock closes. The Gem Sports Hall will be re-programmed and the opening hours extended to accommodate student clubs during the refurbishment. A new dance studio has been created upstairs in Gem so that a dance, aerobics yoga martial arts programmes can continue until the new Woodcock Sports Centre is complete and open in September 2011.
This is a really exciting time for Sport Aston and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact Mike Kirkman (ext 4624) or Simon Foster (ext 4630).
Words by Louise Russell