Burn FM Sport were lucky enough to be invited to a spectacular tour of the University of Birmingham’s new £55million Sport and Fitness club before its official opening on 22nd May
The clubs opening has been eagerly anticipated by all members of the Birmingham Community. On the tour, I was accompanied by Burn FM Sport’s current Head of Sport, Brittany Holder, and you will be excited to know we are both certain the prolonged wait was worth it.
The tour was led by University of Birmingham’s Director of Sport, Zena Wooldridge OBE. Wooldridge has worked incredibly hard over a 10-year period, along with everyone else involved in the planning and construction, to make this facility one of the best university multipurpose sports buildings in the world. In the opening speech, Wooldridge was keen to express two points regarding the new club. Firstly, this facility is not just for the elite athletes from the university and around the world but it is also a gateway for people of any standard and age to enjoy a wonderful sport and fitness experience. This community aspect of the club was certainly apparent when exploring the new facility as you will find out later in the article.
Wooldridge also gave her reason as to why the club’s opening was delayed. Wooldridge and her team strive for perfection and they wanted the facility to be as close to perfect as possible for its opening. This would mean that its users would experience the entirety of the world class facility with no risk of certain sections being closed due to further building work.
The tour began in the wonderfully expansive reception area. From the moment you step into this spacious room you understand the scale of this sports club. Above the reception desk is a novice rock climbing wall which inevitably catches your eye. The climbing wall is what gives the room such a terrific height. I have to admit that I was even tempted to try this climbing wall out. A Costa Coffee shop that overlooks the swimming pool is connected to the area for anyone wanting to pep themselves up in preparation for their activity, give themselves a reward after a good session or just wait to meet someone while watching the swimming.
Throughout the club there are graphics placed on the walls. These graphics both show community sport and performance sport. They lighten up the facility giving it colour and individuality. The facility also maintains the natural look of the university’s campus as there is a red brick and wood theme throughout the club.
After this impressive start, we were led into the new sports hall. I believe my description of the hall would not do it justice as the size of it is astonishing. The hall is three times the size of the hall in the Munrow Sports Centre. Its size gives the hall ultimate versatility, a key theme found throughout the sports club. The hall can be split into three sections and can host a number of sports such as badminton, netball, basketball, squash and many more. When the hall hosts major national and international events, 781 seats can be electronically moved out from the side of the hall in order to create a great atmosphere. If this hall is being used, there is another smaller sports hall in the club to ensure there is always space available for people to use.
My experience of the club got better and better as we were then shown Birmingham’s first 50m swimming pool. The area feels incredibly open and natural due to the high windows on two sides of the room. There is a platform
lift into the pool for disabled members of the community and one half of the pool can change depth for when schools come to use it. The pool is a superb example of how the club is suitable for people of any standard.
The facility also has a state-of-the-art gym which is home to £1.5million worth of gym equipment. It is able to hold a huge number of people which is incredibly practical. Above the gym is a weight lifting area fit for Olympic weight lifting training. This strength and conditioning room allows performance athletes to have their own space away from the main gym. There is also a terrific squash court complex fit for international tournaments. The walls between the courts can be adjusted to create either singles or doubles courts. The club has five activity studios and together they will be able to host 200 classes a week both for the community and elite athletes.
The most unique asset of the facility is a Performance Centre which specialises in applied sports science and medicine. This centre offers physiotherapy and rehabilitation to anyone in the community who is a member of the club. The quality of this centre is highlighted by the £60,000 anti-gravity treadmill which can be used for rehabilitation. It can remove up to 80% of the athlete’s body weight. The centre has a sports performance lab where the elite athletes can be tested and challenged.
There are a number of modern changing rooms in the club. The tile work gives the rooms a new and sophisticated feel. All the lockers in these rooms are electronically controlled by the band you are given when you become a member. The changing rooms have no urinals making them flexible as they can be for males and females. Next to the swimming pool is a changing village fitted with individual changing rooms, open changing areas and showers.
This Sport and Fitness Club has been planned and constructed in such a way that nothing seems to be missing. The arrangement of the building offers versatility making the building have a multipurpose trait. The quality of the facility and equipment give Birmingham and the West Midlands the chance to host national and international tournaments and form strategic relationships with countries from around the world. This facility will not only be a success due to its physical qualities but also because of the world-class team of trainers and sports experts working in it. Overall, this club is not just for the elite but is for the community and I believe that is what makes it so special.