The opening of the new £42 million Moorways Sports Village, including a 50m swimming pool and water park, is just a few weeks away. And when it opens Councillor Ross McCristal, Derby City Council member for leisure, is confident that “the good people of Derby will be proud of it”.
He was speaking as he accompanied Derbyshire Live on a tour of the complex for the first time since the pools were filled with water. The complex also includes a teaching pool, fitness studios gym, dance suite, meeting rooms and a cafe with views over the water park and main pool.
The cafe also has a soft play area, with a separate, larger soft playroom by the main reception. The changing village has private cubicles alongside group changing rooms.
But it is the leisure water part of the venue that is likely to impress all members of the family, especially as Derby has never had a facility like it before. Among the features are two four-storey high external flumes, which take users from the upper floor of the complex and allow them to travel 100 metres as they twist and turn their way into the leisure water area.
There is also a water tower with a giant bucket and sprays, which dominates the leisure water area, and on the walls either side of the room are racer slides. The pool, with its “beach” – a shallow area at the edge but without sand – that has a WOW ball generating waves is expected to be the most exciting feature.
Believed to be the first WOW ball in the country in a public pool, the wave motion can be gentle or rougher according to who is using it. There is also a one-metre deep teaching pool, with water at a constant temperature of 31C, as well as the very impressive 50m ten-lane pool containing 3.5 million litres of water.
The Olympic-sized pool will be able to stage international events but also, because of its moveable floors which can be lowered or raised, can be converted into three separate 25m pools when required.
A massive glass frontage is a major feature and there is space for 1,000 swimmers when the whole pool is opened up, and seating for 450 spectators and 250 competitors. Add to the facilities the modern changing area, showers, sauna and steam rooms and the complex feels very 21st century and up to date.
It has been under construction for just over two years and despite the pandemic and lockdowns, it is “being delivered on time and on budget”, according to Cllr McCristal.
He said: “This is a flagship facility which is not just regionally excellent but is a national model of how a swimming pool should be and already it has been suggested it could win a number of awards.
“People don’t have too much longer to wait until it is open. We are currently going through what is known as a mobilisations period, where staff are being recruited and trained ready for the public.
“We want people to have the best experience and so we have to make sure everything is just right for them to come in. I think the good people of Derby will be proud of the sports village and the good news is that we will soon be able to tell them how much it will cost to come here which we expect to be very similar to what they are paying now to swim.”
The complex is also very accessible for disabled people with a car park wider than usual 2.5-metre parking spaces and a lift to all floors, which can also be used for safe evacuation in an emergency.
As well as a built-in lift and steps giving access into the pool, there is also a pool pod. The hi-tech lift provides para swimmers and others with independent and dignified access into and out of the pool.
The teaching pool has a hoist, which can be moved to wherever it’s needed. In the water park, the floor slopes gently into the leisure pool like a beach making it easy to get in and out, and a special plastic wheelchair is also available to assist customers. Around the building, all signage has a good level of contrast to assist visually impaired customers and there are also Braille signs and pictograms. A hearing loop has been installed in the main reception area.
Mr McCristal said: “We have always been clear that this public building will offer affordable leisure for everyone in the community, a commitment we share with our leisure operating partner.”
Private operator Everyone Active will run the site on behalf of the council, along with the adjacent stadium.
Demolition of the former Moorways site began in November 2017 with the removal of the sports hall and this was followed by the demolition of the old swimming pool early in 2018.
Initially, the complex was going to consist of a large and small pool with fitness studios but after several months of changes and negotiation, it was decided to add the water park facilities, which involved a £9 million increase in the price. Construction work eventually started on the site in February 2020, and the keys were recently handed over by Heage building company Bowmer and Kirkland.
Project manager John Gisbourne said that he was very pleased with the way the project had been completed.
He said: “With the Covid situation, it is amazing that we have not lost time completing this project. This is a swimming complex that I am sure everyone is going to enjoy and regionally it is one of a kind that no one else has.”