Customer Success Story
Salt Ayre Leisure Centre
The Future of Leisure in Times of Austerity
In today’s environment of austerity, a Lancaster leisure centre has proven that a little investment in leisure services can have a big impact.
According to the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, between 2010 and 2020, local authorities will have seen reductions of £16bn to their core government funding. The LGA says the funding gap facing councils will be £5.8bn by the end of the decade. At the same time, much of the UK’s stock of public leisure facilities is in need of investment. The most recent figures from Sport England, which were published in 2015, showed that 58% of sports halls and 60% of swimming pools were more than 20 years old and, of these, nearly a quarter had not been refurbished in 20 years.
Faced with ever declining budgets and leisure centres which are no longer fit for purpose, is it possible for the public sector to encourage wider participation in physical activity? It is. And the recent £5m transformation of Salt Ayre Leisure Centre proves it, says Paul Cluett, managing director of Alliance Leisure. “We know that modern leisure centres with the right mix of facilities and services can change lives by engaging people of all ages and abilities in activity,” Cluett says.
Just two years ago, the tired and ageing Salt Ayre centre was an expensive drain on council resources making an annual loss of £800,000. The situation was unsustainable and significant changes were required if the centre was to survive.
The team at Lancaster City Council was determined to find a way to reinvigorate the site and at the same time encourage the wider community to participate in physical activity. A phased approach to the development was adopted, with the final element of the transformational project – a luxury spa – marking its completion in October 2017.
The project has been delivered in partnership with specialist leisure developer Createability, who have carried out the construction works on the 6605 sq m centre, alongside architects Bignell, Shacklady, Ewing, with the consortium delivering the project from concept stage through to the completion working closely with the Council appointed team.
Alliance Leisure’s development lead, James Foley, says: “The whole ethos for the project has been to create a vibrant environment that stimulates participation by reinvigorating the traditional approach to the health, fitness and wellbeing offer with new technology and solutions.”
Simon Kirby, Sports and Leisure Manager at Lancaster City Council, says: “Our aim has been to create an inspirational destination so members of our community and from across the region can come and enjoy a wide range of new and innovative physical activities. This is exactly what Alliance Leisure, Createability and the team of specialist contractors have achieved.”
Following market testing and an in-depth fitness product review, Alliance Leisure worked seamlessly with Precor as principal equipment supplier. The new 476 sq. m fitness studio on the first floor has tripled in size from the original area. The gym showcases cardiovascular pieces including the new Experience™ Series EFX® 800 with Converging CrossRamp® fitted with the latest P82 consoles and an equally impressive strength range including Discovery™ Series Power and Half Racks, a range of Discovery™ Series and Vitality™ Series dual-use strength machines and an Icarian™ multi-gym station.
The centre is the first owner-operated local authority facility in the country to offer the full Les Mills Immersive Studio experience, showcasing 32 Precor Spinner® Shift bikes, providing an immersive virtual indoor cycling exercise experience. Participants are inspired by cinema quality, live concert experiences and interactive gaming, held in this bespoke themed space and led by live instructors.
In today’s competitive market place, providing versatility for members whilst optimising revenue streams is vital. Salt Ayre Leisure Centre is a great example of a large club leading the way. As part of a multi-million pound development project the management team took the decision to diversify the centre’s equipment offering and installed two Queenax™ functional training units to create an instant boutique environment. Over 4600 people have attended the Queenax small group exercise classes, while the new family-friendly training - circuits for both children and accompanying parents/guardians using a variety of equipment including the Queenax and its accessories - has attracted more than 1,900 new members. Staff feedback is very positive, with trainers reporting the new functional offering generates significant interest from customers of all ages and abilities, with an even split between males and females.
This new direction, of the addition of Queenax Functional Training and group exercise classes, has seen monthly fitness revenue more than double, while annual membership of the facility has more than tripled from 800 to 2,700.
With memberships and usage continually rising and revenue increasing, Salt Ayre is a great example of how, done well, functional training can transform a business, helping to grow the membership base and build revenue.
The centre has been transformed from a shabby, uninviting and uninspiring facility to a vibrant community hub with a host of new facilities and attractions designed to stimulate participation. These include the Les Mills immersive indoor cycling experience, THE TRIP™, Europe’s first outdoor Flight Tower, an 80-station Precor gym, including Queenax functional training solutions, an adventure play area, an XHeight climbing wall, barista-style café and a spa.
Since the redevelopment, visits to the Salt Ayre Leisure Centre have increased by 72 per cent, with the average number of monthly visits per person increasing from 4 to 10. Gym and fitness class attendance has risen by 83%. There has been a shift in user demographics. Female users have increased by 172 per cent, now representing 58% of the membership, and members’ average age has fallen from 43.7 to 37.9 years. The centre is also attracting visitors from further afield, with people travelling from almost a kilometre further away to use the new facilities.
Based on current usage levels and revenue generation, the centre is projected to be in a revenue-neutral position in less than three years. Salt Ayre is a genuine success story and proves that by investing in the right facilities, local authorities can inspire whole communities to get active.
VISITS AND ACTIVITY
(Mar/Apr 2016 to Mar/Apr 2017)
- Total visits (members and non-members) increased by 72% from 31,795 to 54,828
- Visits for fitness classes increased 83% from 9,491 to 17,343
- The addition of Queenax Functional Training and group exercise classes, has seen monthly fitness revenue more than double
- Visits for the fitness suite increased by 83% from 7,249 to 13,274
- The Les Mills TRIP class accounted for more than 3,500 visits in Mar/Apr 2017, making it the most popular class
- Whilst no specific work was carried out on the swimming pool, visits increased by 10% from 11,307 to 12,449
- Family swim visits increased by 52% within this period
- Visits for activities (those that do not take place in the swim or fitness suite areas) increased by 267%
- The new adventure facilities (Energy, XHeight & Gravity) created over 10,000 visits to Salt Ayre Leisure Centre
(Mar/Apr 2016 to Mar/Apr 2017)
- Member visits increased by 419% from 5,450 to 28,302
- Active memberships increased by 101% from 1,314 to 2,639
- Active female members increased by 178% to make up 58% of the membership base
- Average age of members has fallen from 43.7 years to 37.9 years
- The new Junior membership has proved popular, with 300 sales since Mar/April 2017