Three Sheffield leisure centres to be completely rebuilt as part of £100 million investment into city's sporting facilities

Sheffield Council has taken the first steps towards finding a new contractor to run the city’s major leisure and sporting facilities with a £100m investment.

Sheffield City Trust, formerly SIV, currently operates the Arena, Ponds Forge and Hillsborough Leisure Centre but the contract expires in 2024.

Councillors have agreed to tender for a new external partner and there will also be £100m invested into the facilities over the next 30 years.

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Facilities that are due to be revamped are Ponds Forge; the English Institute of Sport Sheffield (EISS); IceSheffield; Heeley Pool and Gym; Beauchief, Birley and Tinsley golf courses; Sheffield Arena and Sheffield City Hall.

Sheffield Council has taken the first steps towards finding a new contractor to run the Arena, Ponds Forge and Hillsborough Leisure Centre

The council is also intending to rebuild Springs Leisure Centre, Hillsborough Leisure Centre and Concord Sports Centre, starting with Springs.

Lisa Firth, director of leisure, said: “If we’ve got an external operator that can generate more income, then we can invest more in the facilities.

“To be really clear, an external partner does not mean a private sector operator, it just means that the council does not own the facilities themselves.

“We can specify that it is a trust, a charity, volunteer organisation or social enterprise and we can specify all our needs such as pricing, concessions, community use and so on.

“That is down to us to design and we can come back and consult on how you would like to see that specification.”

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Why such a long contract?

Green councillors were concerned about the length of the contract. Coun Paul Turpin said: “I would prefer a bit more scrutiny than just voting this through. Does it have to be such a long term of 30 years?

“We’ve got other long term private contracts in the council that cause problems and we don’t know what the world’s going be like in five years nevermind 25 years.

“Will the leisure assets be broken up or are you are you looking to have one overarching contract? Is the main benefit that the council will no longer underwrite losses? And what sort of ongoing control do we have because 30 years is a long time.”

Ms Firth said the council had modelled the finances over 30 years, but that didn’t mean the contract would be awarded for that length of time.

“It’s more likely that it might be five years plus an extension or a 10 year contract but that’s to be worked out.

“We know that for 30 years, we will need to put a significant amount of investment into facilities to keep them up to a certain standard so we’ve done a financial model over 30 years but not a contract.

“We might look at entertainment and leisure separately, because that’s what’s done in many of the cities across the UK.

“It’s a very exciting opportunity for Sheffield with this number of facilities and we know there is going to be appetite in the sector.”

What about current operators Sheffield City Trust?

Andrew Snelling, chief executive of Sheffield City Trust which currently has the contract, described it as great news.

“As the city’s health and wellbeing charity we’re pleased to see confirmation of £100m investment in leisure facilities.

“We look forward to seeing rebuilt, regenerated and refurbished facilities thanks to this significant amount of funding over the next three decades.

“While we look to the future, SCT will continue to serve Sheffield and work with the council to provide the best possible leisure provision.”