£5m post-Olympics boost for Graves

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News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

GRAVES Tennis and Leisure Centre is set to become one of three national headquarters in the post-Olympic drive to improve physical activity and health.

The Government is giving £5m towards Sheffield’s £10m National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, which will include a replacement swimming pool, extra indoor tennis courts, a bigger fitness centre and new facilities for gymnastics and football - all for public use - as establishing a base for rehabilitation and research.

Another £5m of Government funds will be spent on three supporting ‘hubs’ around Sheffield. Locations have not yet been revealed.

It is a shot-in-the-arm for the council, which is pondering cuts across its leisure services next year, with the prospect of significant casualties, to fall in line with reduced Government grants.

It was announced earlier this year Sheffield would have one of the three sports headquarters, alongside London and the East Midlands, as part of the Games legacy.

Now it has been revealed that Graves will lead the promotion of healthy activity in the city - and it is also a big step towards securing the long-term future of the Norton complex.

Running of the centre passed from the council to Sheffield International Venues after proposed deals with private leisure operators, which offered the prospect of major investment, especially in the swimming pool, fell through.

Now £5m is on the table, although match funding is required. Redevelopment is due to begin late next year, with bids being lined up to major sports organisations.

The project brings together the city’s two universities, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, the council, Sheffield International Venues, NHS Sheffield, the Chamber of Commerce, the English Institute of Sport and the voluntary sector.

Health, academic and research specialists will work together to tackle conditions such as obesity and musculoskeletal disorders.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals chief executive Sir Andrew Cash said the centre would build on Sheffield’s reputation for world-class sport, medical and academic facilities and programmes.

“Sheffield also has award-winning public health and voluntary sector programmes aimed at engaging ‘at risk’ communities and reducing health in-equalities. We want to use this expertise to create a cultural change which encourages people to view an ‘exercise prescription’ as a fundamental part of their health prevention and treatment.”

SIV chief executive Steve Brailey said: “It is a great opportunity for us to really help improve the health of the people of Sheffield and the Centre will integrate into the sports facilities at Graves to deliver a unique service. We all know about rising levels of obesity and physical inactivity and Sheffield will be at the leading edge of the national effort to tackle these hugely important issues.”

Council cabinet member Isobel Bowler said: “This is a key part of the city’s 2012 legacy and will result in improved community facilities for the whole city, including of course those people living in nearby areas.

“Whilst the city is facing severe cuts, this is an example of the city council and its partners delivering new investment into health, wellbeing and sport so that we can maintain our goal of a more physically active and healthy city.”