A galaxy of sports stars led by athletics legend Colin Jackson, attended an open day to celebrate the launch of the state of the art leisure centre in Leicestershire, which could inspire the next generation of Olympians.
The £22.5million Whitwick and Coalville Leisure Centre, laid on a full day of activities for the community to try out on Saturday (April 17), with hundreds of children and adults getting involved in activities as diverse as climbing, group exercise classes, inflatable play sessions, trampolining and parkour.
They were also able to mix with the likes of former world 110m hurdles champion Jackson, two-times Commonwealth Games swimming gold medallist Ross Davenport, Leicester City legend Steve Walsh and Tokyo 2020 paracanoeing champion Charlotte Henshaw.
Also in attendance were three-times Paralympic swimming gold medallist Ollie Hynd, Commonwealth Games badminton gold medallist Anthony Clark, European Cross Country Championship winner Gemma Steel and Derby County FC Women’s captain Hannah Ward.
The celebrities were heavily involved in the activity programme, which included climbing and gym challenges, while Davenport, Hynd and Henshaw took on youngsters from Coalville Swimming Club in a VIP swimming race in the main pool. Clark ran a kids’ badminton session and Walsh and Ward took a children’s football session in the sports hall.
Addressing the public at the event’s opening speeches, Jackson said that “Amazing sports stars will be inspired because they have come to great facilities in the heart of their own community”.
“You now have this centre, so use it as well as you can and as much as you can, as ultimately it is here for you,” he added.
Jackson also went on to talk about the upcoming Commonwealth Games, which are being held in Birmingham, and of which he is heavily involved.
“Because it’s a local Commonwealth Games as well, it will have a knock on effect to centres like these”, he said, “People and youngsters will see it on the TV, and realise ‘oh, there’s a squash court locally here, and amazing badminton courts. So the games being such a local thing, with about 1.5 billion people across the planet watching it, it just really says what the importance of facilities like these are, because it really does have the opportunity for the next generation to do something.”
The leisure centre replaced Whitwick’s ageing Hermitage Leisure Centre, which had been in the community for over 30 years.
Whitwick athlete Gemma Steel made a name for herself at the facility’s Hermitage Harriers Running Club, before going on to run for Great Britain, and becoming European Cross Country Champion.
“It’s amazing to have facilities like this right on your doorstep, and to have such great investment in Coalville”, she told the Leicester Times.
“It’s also great to meet Colin Jackson, who was a bit of a hero of mine growing up! The fact that he’s here is a bit surreal, and inspiring not only for me, but for everyone else who’s here today”.
The new centre is being run by award-winning operator Everyone Active in partnership with North West Leicestershire District Council (NWLDC).
Councillor Andrew Woodman, NWLDC Portfolio Holder for Community Services, said: “Our vision for this centre wasn’t just to replace our old facility – it was to create a destination where there was something for everyone, and I think everyone will agree we’ve done that.
“I hope that this open day will attract even more people – those who wouldn’t usually set foot in a leisure centre or who don’t think physical activity is for them.
“The job now and in the future is to showcase these facilities and let everyone know that there is something here for them to get active – no matter their age, their ability or their interests.”
For more information on Everyone Active, visit www.everyoneactive.com