In the summer of 2017, LA architects were awarded the contract to design a new sports and leisure park in the 2000-year-old city of Winchester. It was a capital of Anglo-Saxon England in its day and has always been a place of learning, knowledge, and education. The client requested something new and innovative - a building and sports park linking the university, the city council, a range of charities and the people of Winchester.
The new centre is located in an existing sports park adjacent to the University of Winchester sports stadium. It is a modern, well-designed, and fully accessible building that offers the local community a wide range of indoor and outdoor sports and leisure activities. The design focuses on bringing light and views into the centre to enliven each space and connect it to the wider site.
The building was designed and built during the Covid-19 pandemic, when the whole country was at a standstill. Completed in May 2021, the building complex has been designed to be an inclusive, inspiring, and welcoming place for all people, regardless of their cultural background, gender, economic status and especially regardless of their abilities and impairments. Since opening, the project has quickly become the most successful national operator project in the United Kingdom, despite lockdowns.
Features include a 50-m eight-lane swimming pool with movable floor and boom to cater for elite athletes and competitors. It also has a children’s paddling pool and a 10 m x 20 m teaching pool with a movable floor.
In partnership with the Pinder Trust, the centre also incorporates a brand-new hydrotherapy suite, with a fully equipped hydrotherapy pool, treatment rooms and two changing rooms, for community members with disabilities or those recovering from injury.
The large sports hall is also designed to be inclusive and enables sporting activities for all people, regardless of impairments. It enables sporting competitions at a high level.
The centre is connected to the university’s athletics stadium and outdoor hockey, football, and playgrounds. All facilities were designed in collaboration with a group of people with disabilities who are, for example, paralysed, blind or have mental disabilities - true to the motto “No one is left behind”.
For more formal training, the building has a large gym, which again allows and encourages activities for all ages, fitness levels and all types of disabilities. Two exercise studios, a spinning studio, four squash courts, a climbing facility, an eight court multi-purpose sports hall and a restaurant complete the offer.
The operation of the centre is being monitored and is currently showing a level of success that far exceeds the expectations of the city council, stakeholders, and the community, which now has a truly forward-looking building in its historic city.
Winchester Sport & Leisure Park was designed to be a highly sustainable building and is one of the “greenest” leisure centres in the United Kingdom with a BREEAM rating of “excellent”.
The project was recognised in the 2023 design awards, winning both a RIBA South Award and the Client of the Year Award.