The excitement surrounding the new Riverside leisure complex has just ramped up with the release of a stunning new set of interior designs.
Chelmsford City Council has prioritised this project for investment, which will give residents and visitors a leisure and ice facility unrivalled in Essex and which is expected to serve the city for the next 60 years. The Council is now able to share the latest artist's impressions showing the inside of the building to the public.
Anyone walking down Victoria Road, in the heart of Essex's city, will have noticed the steel frame and wooden roof beams of the new 25m swimming pool taking shape, along with the concrete foundations of the pool tank.
With ten lanes, the pool is ideally sized for training and competitions. It will be more flexible, adaptable and accessible, with an adjustable floor that can be set to different depths and a moveable boom to divide it. The pool complex also includes a flume, two teaching and fun pools, and space for 300 spectators. Regular swimmers need not interrupt their schedule, since the existing pools will stay largely open until the new ones are ready to use.
Construction work has also begun on the new health and fitness studios, 120-station gym, soft play area and creche. On entry, customers will be greeted in a light and welcoming reception foyer, while first-floor walkways will connect the new facilities to the existing sports hall and ice rink. Getting ready for your workout and relaxing afterwards will be a breeze with new changing rooms and a large, bright cafe overlooking the river. The entire complex is designed to be easily accessible for customers with disabilities.
Towards the end of October, the existing sports hall and ice rink will close while they are given a makeover and connected to the new facilities. New flooring and decoration will breathe new life into the sports hall, while a single entrance will join the ice rink to the rest of the building. Extra money will be spent on the new complex and the upgrade of the existing ice rink and sports hall, following the award of a £1.5 million grant from Sport England.
As Riverside is a key city centre site and a hub for sports and leisure activities, the City Council is taking the opportunity to include a major upgrade to the public areas surrounding the centre. To achieve this, the Council will be investing a further £2 million in the project. Improvements will include landscaping the Riverside Walk from Prezzo to Victoria Road, creating a beautiful green route with new trees, a better footpath and cycleway, and improved lighting.
With so much excitement around the redevelopment, the centre is set to be popular, so work is also taking place to maximise the number of parking spaces and provide more for users with disabilities. To encourage sustainable travel, secure cycle areas will be installed to keep bikes safe while their riders visit.
Like any complex construction project, the build has not been without its challenges, particularly since it is located next to a river. Extra groundwork has been carried out due to some unforeseen issues, such as additional piling, dealing with ground contamination and making changes to the drainage system. Over £900,000 has gone into successfully resolving these problems, ensuring that the finished centre is high-quality and can be enjoyed by generations to come.
In light of national concerns, there have also been some changes to design to ensure that the new centre follows the latest safety advice and guidance. In a few cases, this has required using different materials, such as the specification and selection of cladding. These changes will add approximately £1.4 million to the total investment in the project, which is considered money well spent to ensure both public safety and its longevity. The final construction cost will also reflect market factors and inflation since the works were originally priced. These contractual price adjustments are currently predicted to add between £3.5 million to £4 million to the total cost.
Altogether, a budget of £35.45 million has been assembled to invest in the complete project, which includes all the works to the surrounding area, riverside walks and cycle links, refurbishment of the existing sports hall and ice rink, as well as building the new swimming pools, health and fitness facilities, soft play, creche and cafe.
The net cost to the Council will be considerably less than this once the old pool site and other adjacent land is developed or sold. The Council has also secured a total of £4.3 million from developers' planning contributions and external funding to help offset the cost of the project. The remainder will be funded from the Council's balances, much of which has been secured through the sale of underused land and other assets.
As with any large-scale, complex project, it is anticipated that some further contract variations will occur before the project is finally complete. Current indications are that these should be within 10 per cent either way of the overall budget, which is in the range expected.
Councillor Julia Jeapes, Cabinet Member for Leisure, said, "The investment in this project reflects the importance that the Council places on providing first-class facilities for the City of Chelmsford. It complements the new developments taking place and provides a resource for our growing population. It is located in the heart of our city and sets out our vision for the future in making Chelmsford a great place to live, work and visit. The project continues to be very complex and demanding, but we are determined to provide a high-quality build that will stand the test of time, while ensuring value for money."
With bigger and better facilities, more people are expected to visit Riverside next year. This will generate more income, while the new, operationally efficient building will ensure less money is spent on running costs. Overall, the complex is expected to generate a positive return of around £600,000 per year to be invested back into Chelmsford - £500,000 more than it does at present.
Further information about closures of the sports hall and ice rink will be made available as soon as dates are confirmed. Contractors are expected to complete the build early next year and the centre is set to open in spring 2019.
For more information and to view the artist's impressions, please visit www.chelmsford.gov.uk/riversidedevelopment.
Wednesday 20 June 2018