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Article date - 20 May 2021
The council is keen to explore how the aging building – and popular pools which were forced to close in November 2019 due to structural issues – could be replaced with a modern and extended swimming and fitness centre, complete with elite sports training facilities for St Helens R.F.C., after analysis of the building deemed it beyond economic repair.
A ground-up redevelopment on the centre’s current site, together with nearby Parr Stocks Playing Fields would address both the community’s needs for public leisure, health and fitness facilities and the rugby league club’s needs for a dedicated training centre.
Saints currently base most of their player development and training at a facility on the campus of Cowley International College, which when built supported three squads. But the club now has eight squads and has largely outgrown the college facility.
The council is now seeking to appoint a consultant to undertake a feasibility study for the new centre, with proposals to include a clear vision, exciting concepts and financial deliverability.
The project will be collaborative with extensive engagement between the council and the club, the local community and relevant stakeholders throughout.
Council Leader, Councillor David Baines said: “We’re committed to making sure Parr is home to quality health and leisure facilities. The swimming baths is a St Helens institution – it’s where I and thousands of others in our borough learnt to swim, and its current state is deeply sad.
“Just patching it up and covering the cracks isn’t an option: we want to invest in a long-term solution so that future generations can enjoy the very best. The opportunity to work with Saints and explore this potential is a really exciting one and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s possible.”
Councillor Anthony Burns, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Culture and Heritage, said:
“We’re extremely proud of our substantial investment in the borough’s public sports, health and fitness centres in recent years, and the quality-of-life upgrades we’ve made over the last 12 months during the necessary closures. You've only got to look at the improvements at Newton-le-Willows Health and Fitness to see the scale of our ambition.
“Now we want to develop a vision for Parr Swimming and Fitness Centre, aiming to raise its profile and offer for our residents in line with our other exceptional centres.
“We also have this fantastic opportunity to provide a new base and elite training facilities for our world-class rugby league club, Saints – the back-to-back Super League Champions who fly the flag for our borough brilliantly.
“Eventually this would mean in the short-term that we must close the site, but the long-term health and wellbeing benefits of a completely redeveloped, state-of-the-art centre can’t be ignored.
“The landscape of public leisure centres has changed dramatically over the last decade, and our members and visitors rightly expect that their experience is to the highest possible standard, competing with the best private centres around. This is what we’re striving for in Parr and across the borough.”
Mike Rush, Chief Executive of St Helens R.F.C. said:
“We are all hugely excited about this development and to play our part in delivering an elite training facility that will bring together the men, women, academy and disability rugby league teams (LDRL and PDRL) under one united umbrella within St Helens.
“The sport of rugby league continues to grow both professionally and within our local communities and we are keen to continue to introduce more youngsters – both men and women – to our sport and having an elite training facility can only help us achieve this. We are thankful to St Helens Borough Council and we look forward to working with them, local residents and other key stakeholders in delivering this for the benefit of the borough.”