Sporting infrastructure creating a legacy for physical activity
IAKS UK hosted its spring event at the Sport and Fitness Centre on the campus of the University of Birmingham, by kind invitation of Andy Allford (Director of Sport at the University). The day consisted of a morning seminar programme - which looked at the development of sporting infrastructure for the upcoming Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games - followed by a tour of the sports facilities at the university. This included the sports fields which will host the Field Hockey sessions at the Commonwealth Games.
Mike Hall (Partner, FaulknerBrowns) welcomed more than 40 delegates to the event and set the scene for discussions which would include contributions from Sport England and key people involved in the development of a number of the major venues for the Games. The aim was to build on discussions from previous IAKS UK seminars and webinars, which had looked at the legacy of sporting infrastructure from major events in the UK, as well as the role of Universities in encouraging mass participation in sport.
Charles Johnston (Property Director, Sport England) and Andy Couves (Venues and Infrastructure Project Manager, Sport England) looked at the role of major events in driving sporting legacy, as well as the impact that they hope the £750M investment in sporting infrastructure around Birmingham will have for the long-term benefit of the local community. They discussed the approach to multiple clusters for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and how this has helped with the distribution of funding around the region, which they felt would flex between improvement of sporting performance and wider community benefit.
Chris Jones (Project Director, Commonwealth Games 2022 Sandwell Aquatics Centre) presented the timeline for the development of the new Aquatics Centre in Sandwell, which is intended to leave a long-term legacy after it hosts the swimming programme at the Commonwealth Games. He discussed how the strategic need for a new 50m swimming pool in the West Midlands had been identified with Sport England, before taking us through the various work phases that have led up to the recent commissioning of the pool. He also showed how the 4,000 temporary seats for the Games would be removed afterwards and replaced by a legacy sports hall.
Chris Dite (Associate Director, Arup) talked about the redevelopment of the existing Alexander Stadium for the athletics programme at the Commonwealth Games, along with its legacy role in being able to host major events and develop community athletics. He talked about the role of the city council as client, owner and operator, as well as the way in which the masterplan for the site had been developed to leave a sporting, educational and commercial legacy. He showed how the stadium could expand from 20,000 seats up to 40,000 seats for a major event, as well as accommodating the community athletics requirements of the Birchfield Harriers athletic club.
Tom Jones (Senior Principal, Populous) introduced the second part of the seminar programme, with a session that was focused around looking at new opportunities for university sports facilities, with a particular focus on the Sports and Fitness Centre at the University of Birmingham. This would include discussions around how University sports facilities could meet the needs of students, while opening themselves up to the local community, along with options for hosting major sports events and developing the public profile and awareness of the University itself.
Pete Richardson (Director, WOO Architects) started his presentation with an overview of the 3-village concept that had been developed for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, with athletes spread between the University of Birmingham, NEC and University of Warwick. He then looked in more detail at how the University of Birmingham would host field hockey on new water-based pitches, including the overlay of security, concessions and 6,000 temporary seats around the competition pitch. He also showed how the Sport and Fitness Centre would host the squash sessions, by the addition of a temporary glass show court within its existing sports hall and the overlay of 2,000 temporary seats.
Andy Allford then closed the seminar session with some reflections on the challenges and opportunities for universities in hosting major events. He noted how a university campus had many similarities to an athletics village at a major sports event, with the availability of rooms and sports facilities during the summer period providing opportunities for Universities to host these type of events. He looked at the opportunities for Universities to promote themselves by hosting major sports events, including the development of sports scholarship programmes and broadening their international appeal, along with the logistical challenges of managing the impact from the event.
Following lunch, the delegates were taken on a guided tour of the Sport and Fitness Centre, including the swimming pool, gymnasium and other high performance sports training facilities, before moving outside to take a look at the upgrade works being undertaken to the external sports fields which will host the Field Hockey sessions at the Commonwealth Games.
IAKS UK is continuing to develop plans for future activities, including a joint seminar and stadium tour of the Tottenham Stadium in Autumn 2022 with the IAKS Stadium and Arena expert circle, and a study tour to Manchester in Summer 2023.