As the excitement builds to the opening of a new state-of-the-art leisure centre special celebrations have been held as construction reached an important milestone.
Residents visiting Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre in Wickhurst Lane - or even driving along the A24 - will have watched the new £12.3m building set to replace it spring up over the past ten months.
The outside structure is now complete, towering over the old centre, and the County Times was allowed a special sneak peek inside to see what will be on offer.
Horsham District Council, which approved the creation of the new centre named The Bridge, invited current users and special guests to the site for a ‘Topping Out’ celebration on Thursday April 26.
The ceremony is an age old tradition and is used to mark the moment a building’s structure reaches an important point.
Councillor Peter Burgess, who was recently appointed interim chairman of Horsham District Council, carried out the ancient Saxon tradition of anointing a Yew tree with a mixture of wine, oil, corn and salt to mark the occasion while leader of the council Ray Dawe (Con, Amberley, Parham, Storrington and Sullington and Washington) was also on hand to screw in a new placard.
The building itself will host a six court sports hall, an 80-station gym, a cycle studio, three fitness studios and five multi-use games areas as well as a rock climbing wall and a cafe.
A sensory room and a treatment room for beauty and sports therapy sessions is also being created along with new changing facilities including a Changing Places disabled changing facility.
Visitors will enter into a wide reception area at the south of the site which will be next to the centre’s cafe and the main staircase - still to be built - leading to the upper level.
The downstairs will also play host to the rock climbing wall, a party room and will have access to the main sports hall as well as several changing facilities.
Multiple studios have been created upstairs which will house spin cycle classes and other fitness sessions and the new gym area has been built in the large overhanging area opposite the Tesco store.
The gym and south studios are surrounded by glass windows giving visitors the chance to look at the outside world as they use the facilities.
Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture, Jonathan Chowen (Con, Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead) was delighted with the building.
In a speech before the ceremony began he said the current centre was ‘originally built as a home for clubs’ and ‘its time was over’.
He said: “We are replacing a very much loved home at the old Broadbridge Heath centre but The Bridge is going to be something which I am sure people are going to love.
“I just look forward to opening it in the Autumn so that all the residents of Horsham district and particularly at Broadbridge Heath will be able to come here and see what an amazing facility we’ve got.”
Mr Burgess (Con, Holbrook West) said: “I think the impressive thing about this is if you turn around and look you’ll see two different things, the old which is now out of date, built for an older generation with a different concept, and the new.
“The major thing is it’s built for the future and I think that’s the big selling point of this and I think it’s a really good, well built structure.
“When the other building’s down and away the views will be fantastic and I think it’s going to be a huge asset not only to Horsham town but to the whole of Horsham District.”
Work is still continuing on the inside of the building but the centre has been able to open up its new multi-use outdoor courts.
Pat Hughes, regional director at Neilcott Construction, said work was progressing well and the main building would be open to users by the Autumn.
He said: “It’s gone very well, we started towards the end of July last year and made good progress through the winter months and now the spring is here we’re able to move into the building and start the fit-out process.
“It’s great, it’s great to see the building come out of the ground. As you walk around the building you start to get a sense of the size of the space that the facility will provide.”
Peter Everett is a regular customer at the current centre and represented gym users on one of the council’s consultation groups.
He campaigned for the new building to have more space to make sure it had the facilities to cope with both the current and future demand and said he was very pleased with what he saw after attending the ceremony.
He said: “I am very pleased. The user group were pushing for not only facilities but the size of the facilities to not only cope with current demand but future demand.
“Looking at it all I can say is it fits very nicely with what we believe is the right size for the facility.
“It will take time to build its own character. I think it should be a good community asset.”
Places for People, which runs the current centre, is set to take over the building when it opens in October.
Emma McCormick, general manager at the centre, said: “We have been involved since the early stage. It’s going to be a fantastic facility which is going to be absolutely right for the community.”
Tim Bolton, contract manager for Place for People, said the new space would allow the centre to focus on a range of other sports and activities which it had struggled to host before.
He said basketball and badminton were two main areas that would benefit from the new building.
He added: “That one sports hall can facilitate so many different sports and activities.”
The current leisure centre, which has remained open throughout the build, is set to be torn down once the new centre is opened and replaced with car parking.
Most of the current facilities will be provided in the new building however, the plans faced some backlash after the announcement it would not be retaining the indoor athletics facility known as The Tube.
The indoor provision includes a 60m straight, indoor pole vault, long jump and high jump areas - and calls were made to keep it at the site.
Steve Hawker, leisure manager at Horsham District Council, confirmed due to funding issues most of the track would be demolished but it would be retaining 30m.