The pool and health suite at Exeter’s Riverside Leisure Centre has re-opened after a four-year closure.
Millions of pounds have been spent on refurbishing the building, following a fire in February 2017 which closed the entire facility for months.
The gym and sports halls were back in operation later that year, but whilst fire damage was being repaired, unrelated structural weaknesses were revealed.
Exeter City Council leader Phil Bialyk officially re-opened the pool and health suite at a short ceremony on Saturday and said it was “absolutely” worth the wait.
“I’ve got to thank everybody – all the members of the leisure facility – for putting up with this problem for the last four years. It has been dire, it’s been beset by problems. Hopefully now they can see what we’ve done.
“It’s a fantastic facility. It’s been refurbished to a high standard. The original was only really built for 20 years, let’s be honest, so we’ve gone round and put everything right.”
The centre has new changing areas, tiling, wall cladding and cubicles, along with a health suite with steam room, sauna and spa pool. Amongst the work undertaken, all 276 panes in the roof glazing had to be replaced.
Cllr Bialyk added that he was “always determined” reopen the pool: “I’m glad that we’ve had the resolve. Those people who were going onto us, that’s over now as far as I’m concerned. I want everyone to appreciate it and enjoy it.”
Councillor Duncan Wood, who is in charge of leisure and physical activity, said: “Anybody that comes here will see a completely refurbished centre. The pool is fantastic, the changing space is fantastic, the health suite looks brilliant. It was always a popular community pool and I’m sure it will be again.
Key workers who helped the city through the pandemic were the first to use the new-look facilities, which was then followed by a ‘family fun weekend.’
Cllr Wood also defended the cost of the refurbishment: “No civic project is very cheap. The project itself wasn’t planned in advance, it was a fire that we responded to, and as various structural elements and weaknesses were uncovered, that had to be responded to.
By Ollie Heptinstall, Local Democracy Reporter.