Extra £2m for Riverside refurbishment and ‘sports village’ plan for Exeter Arena to be considered by city council

An extra £2million needs to be splashed on repairs and refurbishment at the fire-hit Riverside Leisure Centre in Exeter. 

City council chiefs are also being asked to approve spending a six-figure to progress plans for a ‘community sports village’ and new swimming pool at Exeter Arena.

Both matters will be considered by the authority’s executive next week.

The pool and health suite at the Riverside, in Cowick Street, have been shut since a blaze broke out in February 2017.

Councillors have been told a final, costed and timed programme of refurbishment is still being developed.

A report to the executive says a budget of £8.4million has been agreed – but now an additional £2million is required to replace the sports hall roof.

Members are also being asked to approve an additional budget of £150,000 for the production of detailed business cases for a ‘community sports village’ and swimming pool at Exeter Arena.

The ‘sports village’ could also include a strategic cycling hub, a gymnastics centre, boxing and martial arts studio, an artificial grass pitch, multi-use changing pavilion/clubhouse, and commercial leisure.

There are also possible options to include soft play and a tenpin bowling facility.

The existing athletics track, playing pitches, skate park, indoor bowls and fitness facilities will be retained, but Northbrook Swimming Pool is set to close.

A capital loan fund of up to £10million – for whoever wins the contract to operate the city’s leisure centres to borrow from – is also recommended.

Exeter City Council is currently in the process of undertaking a competitive tender process to secure a new operator for its leisure facilities.

The 10-year contract to the successful applicant is due to begin in late September 29.

They will be responsible for St Sidwell’s Point, the Riverside and Wonford sports centres, Exeter Arena, the ISCA Centre, and the Pyramids Swimming and Leisure Centre – even though it will close in March 2021.

Director Jo Yelland says in her report to the executive on the £2million needed for the Riverside work: “The refurbishment is proving extremely complex and a considerable design and technical challenge.

“A final costed and timed programme is still under development as several options put forward by designers have been rejected due to their potential cost and timeframes.

“This review process is nearing completion and every effort is being made to ensure the programme comes in line with the existing budget, there is a likelihood that further finds will be needed to compete the works.

“Additionally, given the time the refurbishment will take to complete, there is a strong argument for including the lifecycle replacement of the sports hall roof into the current programme.

“This estimated additional capital cost is in the region of £2m.”

She says of the business case for ‘community sports village’ at Exeter Arena: “There is a significant opportunity to draw down external funds for some aspects of the future developments, but, in order to be able to do this, a full costed business case is required.

“Delaying this process will increase the risk that the ageing Northbrook Swimming Pool becomes unviable and may close before a replacement is built.”

Exeter City Council’s executive is due to consider the matters on Tuesday (April 7). Its recommendation will then go to full council on April 21.

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