City Council approves new operator for leisure centres in Winchester and Whiteley

Winchester City Council’s Cabinet has approved plans for a new operator to run the district’s two leisure centres - River Park Leisure Centre, Winchester and Meadowside Leisure Centre, Whiteley.

Everyone Active is already the appointed operator of the new Winchester Sport & Leisure Park under construction at Bar End and will now enter into discussions with the council to become the interim operator for both the district’s centres until next spring. Everyone Active will take on the operator contract from Places Leisure.

Against a backdrop of national difficulties for the leisure industry following enforced closures due to COVID-19, the city council’s plan will enable existing staff to transfer to the new operator ahead of reopening to the public on September 1. The decision comes after a detailed analysis of cost and the best value for residents including an option for the centres to remain closed, which was ruled out.

Residents who have memberships that were previously held with Places Leisure will have the opportunity to transfer to Everyone Active from 1 September 2020.

Cllr Malcolm Prince, Cabinet Member for Sport, Leisure and Communities, said:

“We are determined to ensure that residents have access to the district’s leisure centres as soon as possible after the period of enforced closure due to COVID-19. This plan represents the best value for the council having carefully assessed all the options open to us.

“We will now work with Everyone Active to ensure we can welcome people back to Winchester and Whiteley leisure centres in September with confidence. I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank our existing operator Places Leisure for their contribution to the health and wellbeing in our district.”

Alison Norman, area contract manager at Everyone Active, added: 

“The leisure centres in Winchester and Whiteley are pivotal in providing a wide range of facilities to the community and engaging people from all backgrounds in exercise. We are delighted to be taking over management of these centres from September, followed by the launch of the new Winchester Sport & Leisure Park next year.

“We’re very much looking forward to becoming a part of the Winchester community and reopening the centres after a long period of closure. We’d like to reassure all customers that we have implemented strict measures to ensure the cleanliness and safety of our centres for when they reopen. We will be in touch with all our customers very soon with the specific details and reopening plans in relation to their local centre. We thank them for their patience, and we look forward to seeing them all soon.”

John Oxley, chief operating officer at Places Leisure, said,

“We’ve really enjoyed our partnership with the city council over the past 28 years. Our mission has always been to encourage the community to be active, and we’re sure they will continue to do so in the future. We’d like to thank our teams for their hard work and commitment over the years and we want to reassure our customers that they will see the same familiar faces when the centres re-open.”

Everyone Active is the longest-established leisure operator in the UK and currently manages over 170 leisure centre sites across the country in partnership with more than 50 different local authorities.

The council announced plans to tender for an operator for Meadowside Leisure Centre, Whiteley earlier this year - this process remains the long- term plan. The new Winchester Sport & Leisure Park is due to open in Spring 2021.