Leisure centre rises from the ashes

WORKMEN are today adding the finishing touches to a Suffolk leisure centre ravaged by fire as a massive £7million refurbishment project nears completion.

WORKMEN are today adding the finishing touches to a Suffolk leisure centre ravaged by fire as a massive £7million refurbishment project nears completion.

Officials at the state-of-the-art facility in Bury St Edmunds say anticipation is building ahead of Monday's opening - adding they hope the public will be “overwhelmed” when the facelift is finally revealed.

The opportunity to refurbish and update the leisure centre came after a huge blaze at the site in September 2004.

Leisure chiefs vowed the facility would be better than ever when finally re-opened - and are confident the work which has taken place will not fail to impress.

“It has been a long job, and we hope the customers will be overwhelmed by it,” said Eric Armstrong, chief executive of Abbeycroft Leisure, which took over the running of the centre from St Edmundsbury Borough Council last year.

“The swimming pool hall in particular is stunning and the fitness studio takes council services to another level. The customers in Bury will see some major differences with brilliant facilities.”

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As part of the refurbishment a new reception area has been created, with turnstiles allowing members to fast track their entrance into the building while avoiding any queues.

The changing rooms boast underfloor heating and a state-of-the-art body drying machine, while all showers and taps have been fitted with sensors.

“We have really tried to raise the level of service and facilities we are offering to the community,” said Alison Bowyer, development manager for Abbeycroft.

“We have extended the back of the main pool area to create seating for over 150 people, have added electronic timing devices and a boom to make it 25 metres long, which means we can hold national events here.

“There is also a moveable floor in the pool which gives us more flexibility for disabled access and aquatone classes.”

Miss Bowyer said staff had been “inundated” with inquiries regarding membership and classes, adding: “The new fitness studio boasts a first for Bury, because our cardio-vascular equipment has got an integral entertainment system so each person has their own screen.

“Some can find it difficult when using gym equipment as they are working on their own, so hopefully this will help keep people motivated.

“The members' packages are also competitive because we want people to come down, work out and work out often.”

Improvements planned for the centre were brought forward as a result of the blaze in 2004, which saw the town grind to a standstill as thick black smoke poured across the Suffolk skyline.

However, no redundancies were forced as staff were redeployed elsewhere within the council. Many of these workers have now returned to their original roles.

“The staff have been inspired by the building and what our plans are,” said Simon Ginders-Coxshall, centre manager.

“We have received nothing but positive feedback and are very pleased with the end results - the quality of the fixtures, fittings and equipment is superb.”

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