Sportspark could shape Olympics planning

The success of Norwich's Sportspark could shape planning for the 2012 London Olympics as one of the country's top sports chiefs arrives in the city this week.

The success of Norwich's Sportspark could shape planning for the 2012 London Olympics as one of the country's top sports chiefs arrives in the city this week.

Derek Mapp, chairman of Sport England, will visit UEA to see why - at a time when many lottery-funded sports ventures have floundered - it has been a huge success since it opened in 2000.

Mr Mapp will use the visit as an opportunity to gather ideas to help make new facilities achieve the target of attracted more people to take up physical activity in the build-up to the London games.

Sportspark director Keith Nicholls said: “Since opening we have had 1.3 million visits a year and, because there was no facility like this in the area before, it is clear a large proportion of those are by people who are taking up an active lifestyle for the first time. We have also had more women then men visiting which is also rare.

“In contrast there have been many other projects in the past which have no resulted in significant numbers of people taking up sport.

“Sport England is aiming to get two million more people playing sport for the Olympics and it wants to make sure the all new ventures are sustainable in the long-term and don't just provide immediate benefits. We feel we have set a standard here for others to follow.

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“Our success is down to many factors. It is a very economic building to run and it is also very open. People may bring their children here to swim but, because of the design of the building, they are drawn into taking part in an activity themselves.

“It is all about providing the right facility at the right location for the right cost and developing something which is really part of its community.”

"All of this has helped to make us sustainable and a real success story compared to many other ventures. That is why the new chair of Sport England is interested to see Sportspark for himself and to hear about how we operate.”

The Lottery Sports Fund contributed £14.5m to the £17.6m overall cost of the Sportspark, which Mr Mapp will visit on Friday.

The aim of the Sportspark is to provide top quality facilities and support services at affordable prices for the wider community as well as for the university and for elite athletes. Schools also use the facilities on a regular basis.

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