FITNESS fans have given a multi-million-pound sports centre the thumbs up as it opened its doors to the public for the first time.

Swimmers and gym-goers flocked to try out the new facilities at the Dorchester Sports Centre, which opened at 7am yesterday, with Thomas Hardye pupils among the first to arrive.

West Dorset District Council chairman Gillian Summers attended to officially hand over to the 1610 Leisure Trust, who will run the centre.

The £8million facility boasts a six-lane, 28-metre swimming pool, as well as a smaller learners’ pool, a fitness suite, exercise studio and outdoor grass pitch.

More than 100 full- and part-time staff will be employed.

Coun Summers said the town should be ‘proud’ to have the centre on its doorstep.

She said: “I’m very impressed with the new facilities, and I was pleased to see school pupils coming in and taking part in exercise.

“It’s rare that facilities like these can be built in this economic environment, and the district council have worked closely with the developers and operating staff to achieve this.”

West Dorset District Council developed the new centre in partnership with Dorset County Council and the Thomas Hardye School, who shares the facilities, and funding also came from the Duchy of Cornwall.

The project was supported by the Dorchester Swimming Bath Trustees and Sport England.

Centre manager Mark Jenkins said he was ‘excited’ to see the centre open its doors.

He added: “We have some fantastic facilities offering activities from swimming to yoga and everything in between.

“The centre is the culmination of seven or eight years of hard work by the district council.”

Tony Hurley, head of leisure and commissioning for West Dorset District Council, said that despite the £8million investment, the price of a swim will not increase.

He added: “The new centre will also continue to offer free entry for carers accompanying a disabled person.

“There will be a third off entry for disabled people, children, and young people aged 16 or under, and students, and free entry for children aged four and under, as well as discounts for members of the armed forces and the West Dorset District Council leisure pass scheme, which offers discounts to people with disabilities.

“There will be some changes, but these will be decided by the 1610 Leisure Trust.”