Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is in the middle of an impressive £67m leisure investment programme, which has included a major redevelopment of the Michael Sobell Leisure Centre complex in Aberdare, South Wales.
Works carried out on Sobell have included a new skate park, a revamped swimming pool, 3G sports pitch and state-of-the-art leisure centre.
At the heart of the Sobell project was the demolition of the ageing leisure centre and replacing it with a new athletics complex.
The athletics facility was to include a competition-standard running track with track and field facilities, a new 263-seat spectator stand and changing rooms. The council appointed Laing O’Rourke as the main contractor, which in turn turned to Blakedown Sport & Play for its expertise in creating sports facilities. Blakedown Sports and Play’s contract was worth £1.042m and included the construction of the eight-lane running track with infield, runways, throwing events, floodlighting and fencing. There is also a fully certified throws cage, steeplechase pit and three full-size long jump runways and landing areas.
The porous track – which includes two sprint straights – has been tested to both IAAF and UK Athletics (UKA) performance standards. The infield can be marked for athletic field events and full-size football.
“Blakedown worked closely with the design team, UK Athletics and England Athletics to deliver this exciting project,” said Tony Farmer, contracts director, Blakedown Sport & Play – and added that the team faced some challenges during the project.
“The track has been constructed on the area of the old demolished school so we had to deal with some quite difficult ground conditions.”
“The winter weather in Wales delivers with its own problems, however – despite a number of last-minute design alterations – we succeeded in delivering the project to programme and it was opened on time during the summer of 2018.
“The quality of the completed project was excellent and has received some excellent reviews.
“To deliver a UKA-certified track is hard work and takes a lot of time and commitment. This is a project we are extremely proud of.”
The field will cater for field athletics and football matches, which will be dictated partly by the seasons – athletics in the summer, football in the winter.
“The athletics facility is one of the best of its kind in South Wales,” said councillor Ann Crimmings, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Leisure and Heritage Services.
“It will host training sessions for local clubs as well as athletics meets, while the field can also be marked up for football – continuing the past tradition of hosting regional football matches and local cup finals.
“The facility is a fantastic addition to the £67m Sobell site, which presents a number of indoor and outdoor exercise opportunities for residents.
“This investment continues the council’s commitment to improve the leisure facilities.”