Sheffield Council to put leisure and entertainment venues out to tender with £100 million investment

Sheffield Council is planning to put the city’s major leisure and entertainment facilities out to tender, meaning Sheffield City Trust will need to compete with potentially huge interest to keep running them.

Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 2:39 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th November 2021, 2:01 pm

Labour and Green coalition leaders are set to approve a more than £100 million programme of investment in facilities – including Sheffield Arena and City Hall – and decide how they will be run in a meeting next week.

Officers said the most cost-effective way to run the facilities would be through an external partner chosen with a tender exercise after considering options including bringing them back in-house and managing them from within the council and establishing a local authority trading company to operate the services.

Lisa Firth, director of culture, parks and leisure, said in a report: “We have ambitious plans to do more to maximise the benefits of our leisure and entertainment services for our residents and recognise their contribution towards wider objectives, such as reducing the burden on the NHS and social care, lowering levels of obesity and cutting carbon emissions.

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Ponds Forge swimming pool. Sheffield Council is putting the city's major leisure and entertainment venues out to tender - including Sheffield Arena and Ponds Forge - with a £100 million investment programme, meaning Sheffield City Trust, which has run them for more than 30 years could face fierce competition to keep them.

“We know that these ageing facilities are hampering our efforts to meet net zero targets and must be addressed as part of efforts to tackle the climate emergency. This transformation can only happen if there is a long-term investment to save plan to support the development of our service.”

Work on the leisure strategy started in 2019 amid concern raised by council finance officers that Sheffield City Trust (SCT) – the current provider – was “haemorrhaging” taxpayers’ money.

A review needs to happen because the council’s arrangements with SCT – which has been operating major venues in the city since 1987 – are ending in 2024.

The council confirmed that it was not considering closing any venues permanently and it will also not be acquiring any new buildings because analysis showed that broadly, there are enough facilities in the right places.

Which leisure centres will get investment?

Council officers said without investment, facilities will continue to decline and eventually close.

The investment, which will total more than £100 million, will be phased over a 30 year period.

It will require support from reserves in the first 10 years of the strategy then reserves will be repaid from operational surpluses.

A big part of the investment will be addressing a backlog of maintenance.

The cost of the backlog and future maintenance is around £63 million between now and 2028.

Facilities that will be revamped are: Ponds Forge; the English Institute of Sport Sheffield (EISS); IceSheffield; Heeley Pool and Gym; Beauchief, Birley and Tinsley golf courses; Sheffield Arena and Sheffield City Hall.

The council is also going to rebuild Springs Leisure Centre, Hillsborough Leisure Centre and Concord Sports Centre, starting with Springs.

Officers said: “It is expected that investment into new and improved facilities will help to attract and retain increased participation and usage of venues. Improved facilities will better meet customer expectations of a modern and welcoming leisure and entertainment offer. This will help to reduce barriers to participation and encourage more people to be more active, more often.”

A decision on who will run the venues from 2024 is expected next year.

The council’s co-operative executive will meet on Wednesday, November 17 to discuss and approve the plans.