Fire-ravaged leisure centre re-opens

A REBUILT and revamped Suffolk leisure centre was finally reopened yesterday - seventeen months after a huge fire ravaged the popular facility.And it was a big day for 11-month-old Grace Thomas who, with grandmother Maureen Blake, was the first to plunge into the pool at the new £7 million complex, thus continuing a family tradition.

A REBUILT and revamped Suffolk leisure centre was finally reopened yesterday - seventeen months after a huge fire ravaged the popular facility.

And it was a big day for 11-month-old Grace Thomas who, with grandmother Maureen Blake, was the first to plunge into the pool at the new £7 million complex, thus continuing a family tradition.

In 1975, Mrs Blake, a receptionist at the centre, was on hand with her daughter - Nicola - to do exactly the same thing when the centre was first opened by the legendary England and Ipswich Town manager Sir Alf Ramsey.

Since then, however, the centre has been twice reduced to ashes - once in a suspected arson attack in 1980 and in 2004 thanks to an electrical fault.


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Yesterday, Mrs Blake, who has been a receptionist at the sports complex since first opened, said she was delighted to repeat family history despite the centre's apparent fire jinx.

“They are amazing facilities,” said the proud grandmother. “They were amazing back in 1975 but they have dated and now they are reborn again.

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“I think these facilities are an investment in the future health of the town both my daughters have been full members and I hope Grace will be as well.

“Sir Alf was a lovely man - very encouraging of sport in the town and very supportive of the new pool.

“It is a great honour for me to do this again, at first it was going to be a private affair then I was told it would be a lovely photo opportunity and I agreed to everyone coming along.”

Among the first to enjoy the “jewel in the crown” of the new centre was Clare Jameson, 30, who signed herself up for an gym induction.

She added: “I'm impressed by what I have seen - it is brilliant equipment and the exercises are simple. I've been waiting for this gym to open and I will bring my daughter here to go swimming.”

Terry Clements, St Edmundsbury portfolio holder for sport and leisure, said: “I feel fantastic. We wanted a wow factor and I think we've got it.

“Not only is it an excellent facility but it is also giving council taxpayers value for money. I'm signing up and so are the rest of my family.”

Mr Clements also stressed the importance of making the state-of-the-art facilities available to everyone in the borough and promised a £2.5million investment in the sports facilities at Haverhill.

In Bury, the centre boasts a 100-station fitness studio where users can choose their own audio or TV entertainment which overlooks the competition length 25-metre pool and a pool with an adjustable floor.

Other improvements include a new health suite with a sauna, steam room and aromatherapy room and a full programme of classes and activities for all age groups complements the facilities.

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