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Perth ice rink, leisure pool and indoor bowls AXED from sports centres merger plan

The Dewars Centre, Bell's Sports Centre and Perth Leisure Pool are all facing closure in a bid to save the council millions of pounds a year

Olympic gold medallist Eve Muirhead curling at the Dewars Centre, Perth
Olympian Eve Muirhead is among those who honed their curling skills on the ice rink at Perth's Dewars Centre. Image: Kim Cessford / DC Thomson.

Curling, leisure swimming and indoor bowls look likely to be the major casualties of a cost-cutting shake-up of Perth sports centres.

Bell’s Sports Centre, the Dewars Centre and Perth Leisure Pool are all facing the axe.

However, a new venue being planned to replace the three crumbling buildings will NOT include an ice rink, leisure pool or indoor bowls rink.

The news will come as a particular blow to campaigners who have previously warned the closure of the Dewars Centre would be a death knell for the region’s curling success.

Dewars was the home rink for Courier columnist Eve Muirhead and her 2022 Olympic women’s gold medal curling team.

Dewars Centre exterior
The Dewar’s Centre ice rink has made Perth a centre of excellence for bowling. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

Perth and Kinross councillors will discuss the merger plan next Monday.

It follows a review by consultants, who found the Bell’s and Dewars centres and Perth Leisure Pool are running at a loss of around £1.6 million a year.

Head of culture and communities services Fiona Robertson is recommending all three buildings close.

They would then be replaced by a new centre at a single location. This is likely to be the current Dewars/leisure pool site on the Glasgow Road.

No place for ice rink, pool or bowls in Perth’s revised PH20 project

The move will mean blowing the dust off the mothballed PH20 scheme, which was previously intended to replace the two venues.

Fiona Robertson in business suit in Perth and Kinross Council chambers
Fiona Robertson will present her report next week. Image: Kris Miller/DC Thomson

It was shelved amid spiralling costs in 2023.

However, this version would have a narrower range of facilities than previously planned.

In her report to the committee, Ms Robertson writes: “Usage and market analysis carried out for this review suggests a single site facility should focus on the key leisure activities most widely used by the local population and where usage trends indicate at least steady state, if not growth.

“This also suggests leisure water, ice and indoor bowling are removed from the current approved accommodation schedule for PH20, helping to address affordability and longer-term financial sustainability risks.”

Bell’s Sports Centre, the Dewar’s Centre and Perth Leisure Pool are all managed by Live Active Leisure (LAL).

Perth and Kinross Council gives it an annual contract fee of almost £4m – £2.7m of which goes on the three venues.

Artists drawing showing revamped Perth Leisure Pool as part of the PH20 project
How Perth Leisure Pool was envisaged under the PH20 proposal.

The council asked consultants Glasgow Audit to consider the sports centres as part of a wider review of its arms length organisations, including Live Active Leisure.

They found all three buildings are running at a £1.6m annual loss as it is.

All are more than 30 years-old. And they will need a minimum of £3.9m spent on repairs and maintenance in the next five years.

Floods and listed building plan throw more costs into the mix

The Glasgow Audit review was carried out before the Bell’s Sports Centre was hit with a £2M bill to repair flood damage.

The venue was deluged in October after the floodgates on the North Inch were left open during heavy rain.

Bell's Sports Centre in flood water.
Bell’s Sports Centre was flooded when the River Tay burst its banks. Image: Roben Antoniewicz

The issue has been further complicated by a proposal from the Twentieth Century Society to give the Bell’s Centre and Perth Leisure Pool Category B listed building status.

A consultation on that suggestion will close in late January 2024.

Councillors will be told: “If listed status is granted it will entail significant additional responsibilities for LAL as the current owner of both buildings.

“Listed status does not however preclude other options for future use, including commercial marketing and disposal by LAL.”

No ice rink – but here’s what Perth might receive from PH20-lite

The shrunken PH20 offering being put to next Monday’s meeting of the full council would feature:

• 25m, 8 lane Traditional Swimming Pool including moveable floor.
• Teaching Pool
• Fitness Gym
• Studios (Group, multi-purpose space)
• Sports Hall
• Family Play Activity

And councillors will be told there is no time to waste.

Ms Robertson is recommending the council begins work straight away on a costed transition plan and a revised business case for the PH20 project, as well as identifying a site for the new centre.

“The issues relating to future provision of leisure in Perth city require resolution
as a priority,” she says.