New sports and leisure complex could cost council £80m

An £80m (US$99.2m, €93.2m) sports and entertainment complex could be built in Guildford to replace the current leisure facility because of its roofing problems, which have existed since it first opened more than 20 years ago.

Guildford Borough Council plans to launch a feasibility study into replacing the Guildford Spectrum, which opened in 1993 at a cost of £28m (US$34.7m, €32.6m). 

Guildford Spectrum is a 26-acre site that includes an international standard ice rink, four swimming pools, a dive pool, a 10 badminton court sports hall, an exercise studio, a 72-station health and fitness suite, a 400m athletics stadium with floodlit football pitch, squash courts and a ten-pin bowling centre, among other facilities.

A nine-page discussion paper highlights that the venue has staged a number of sporting events, including the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships, World Cup Trampolining, as well as international basketball and netball fixtures. It was also used as training camps for countries before the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012.

The operation of Guildford Spectrum was outsourced in 2011 to GLL and Freedom Leisure. The latter, a charitable trust, operates the venue on a day-to-day basis and pays the council just under £1m each year. 

However, the borough council is responsible for structural repairs and roof replacement. 

The council’s discussion paper says: “There have been a number of problems with the roofs at the Guildford Spectrum, related to leaking, which occurred as the venue reached practical completion towards the end of 1992 and has continued since practical completion was achieved on 19 January 1993, as well as there being other defects associated with the building. These problems were mitigated in the short term through the £2m building remedial works project that took place in 2007.”

The document says the building has continued to leak and will only be resolved by replacing the roof. Shutting the facility for repair would have significant cost implications for the council and disrupt customers. A modified repair project would cost more than £12m over 130 weeks. 

The paper says: “It is questionable whether the resulting price and period for the works, both of which are really significant, represent value for money in a building of this age.”

The paper goes on to point out that “£80m would be a realistic indicative figure” for a new complex, with some funding likely to be available from Sport England or National Governing Bodies. It is anticipated that a new facility would take around ten years to plan and build before it could open. 

The council’s lead councillor for rural economy, countryside, parks and leisure, Cllr Richard Billington said: “We are looking into the possibility of replacing Guildford Spectrum with a brand new sports and entertainment venue in the future. This is a great opportunity to provide up to date facilities harnessing the latest modern technology.

“We have looked at repair and refurbishment of the existing facility and this does not represent the best value for taxpayers’ money. As part of the feasibility process we will be asking local residents, sports organisations, community groups and businesses for their feedback, so look out for more information over the coming months.

First published on, written by Deven Pamben, 21 November 2016