Sports centre in line for £15m revamp after 10 years of waiting

Graves Centre
Graves Centre

A proposed upgrade of Graves tennis and leisure centre is finally on the way – 10 years after the ball first started rolling.

Redevelopment details have been confirmed now that a £15 million funding package has been secured, and construction is due to start early next year.

The updated project includes a six-lane 25m replacement swimming pool, a learner pool, new fitness suite and studios, two extra indoor tennis courts and the city’s first dedicated gymnastics and trampolining centre.

The Norton centre will become the Sheffield headquarters for the National Centre for Sport and Exercise, a spin-off from the 2012 London Olympics, with rooms for health consultation, specialist treatment services and research facilities.

Hopes of reinvigorating Graves, the old Rowlinson sports centre, date back 10 years, and its swimming pool and sports centre are generally agreed to be on borrowed time.

Initially, the council looked for a private sector partner, but prospective deals with two leisure operators fell through.

The focus switched more recently to Sheffield International Venues, which runs Graves and which submitted its own plans earlier this year.

Now the ball is in the court of the council, which has pulled together a scheme set to be financed by the council, the Government’s Department for Health, the Lawn Tennis Association, British Gymnastics and Sport England. Dropped from the previous application is a proposed tenpin bowling centre and children’s soft play area.

If planning permission is granted, work will start early next year with a 12-month construction programme. It will mean Graves becomes the focal point in the south of Sheffield for health and fitness as part of the Olympic legacy programme, mirroring the North Active development in High Green in the north.

Council cabinet member Coun Isobel Bowler said: “The investment will dramatically improve the quality of leisure facilities in the area, which will increase participation levels and therefore improve health.

“With plans also being worked up for a new pool with fitness and health facilities in High Green and redevelopment work already started at Concord, this is the city’s biggest investment in new leisure facilities for many years.”

Although SIV runs Graves at present, it is competing with other leisure companies for a new deal.

Bids were due to be submitted by this week.