22 Jan 2012

Stratford Park Leisure: great, great improvements

I was delighted to be invited to the "VIP opening" yesterday of the newly redeveloped Stratford Park. It has been a long haul to get the improvements but they are very, very worth it - District Council officers, the new company Sports and Leisure Management Ltd (SLM) and indeed the lead Councillor, Keith Pearson, should all be delighted by the results - and thanked. Well done to all!

It was also touching and right that the centre's improvements were in memory of Karen O'Toole who recently died - she was the amazing officer at Stroud District Councillor who headed up the improvements. Of course no one is expecting all to be rosy always but many positive comments are rolling in...a guy saying it was better than his Chelsea Gym, another loving the more open gym area with views out and some great new kit, the sauna and steam room improvements, the new sealed floor in gym, two dance studios...hey I could go on but go experience it....although for me I never fully understand why folk don't just get on a real bike or go for some real running...but back to the opening....not sure why it was billed VIP as mostly councillors!

Anyhow the morning tour and opening was an opportunity to also push with SLM and District some of my pet hopes like for more inclusion of people with a learning disability and others....last year I helped through work to organise a leisure taster day for around 200 adults with learning disabilities at Oxstalls. I'd love to see if it was poss here in Stroud....

I did also mention the Free Running sessions I tried unsuccessfully to get established with the previous owners...is there still interest? I will contact a few people but do let me know if you have thoughts. See also my comments re Free Running here.

I also tackled SLM's Catering boss re why not more Fairtrade and local food....of course buying stuff in across the country makes it cheaper but hey what about our local producers....not sure I got very far at all except perhaps local beer but that is on decline in leisure centres anyway....

Lastly I challenged them on reducing meat - we've seen many increase veggie options and some councils adopt Meat Free Mondays what about SLM here in Stroud? Well we'll see - certainly Ecotricity is leading the way with vegetarianism and their moves at Forest Green Rovers.

Anyhow the Leicestershire-based SLM took over the running of the facility from November 1 - one minute past midnight. Parkwood Leisure, which first started running the centre in 1998, lost the bid - and as regular blog readers or regular centre users will know there has been a history of issues there - on Scrutiny I repeatedly raised issues like cleanliness and also energy efficiency - see for example here - well the new contract tightens up on both those and allows for some real opportunities for improvements like solar power.

Among the new responsibilities tied in is ground maintenance of the all-weather pitch, netball courts and outdoor pool, the setting of rates for the whole centre and to achieve a nationally recognised pool safety award by the end of March 2013. A tall order but they have been working hard and I am hopefully they will make it!

Today will be the second day of their opening celebrations - already over 5,000 people have signed up!!!! See the new website and how to join at:

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