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Dorchester Sports Centre's year of success
AFTER years of waiting Dorchester has a sports facility to be proud of and the town’s residents are making the most of it.
The Dorchester Sports Centre is approaching the end of its first year of operation and it seems the local people are showing their approval by voting with their feet.
The town has been longing for a new, modern facility for many years and now it is up and running with around 20,000 visits every month.
Centre manager Mark Jenkins said the total number of visits is approaching the quarter of a million mark while membership numbers are up around four fold from about 360 at the old Thomas Hardye Leisure Centre to somewhere around 1,600 at the new facility.
He said: “It has gone very well and the residents of Dorchester and the surrounding area seem to have taken the centre to their hearts and are coming in in their droves.
“The look of the centre obviously helps but it’s the programme we offer which really attracts people to the centre.
“If we didn’t have a proper programme people would not come.”
Mr Jenkins said the centre – which boasts a six-lane 28-metre swimming pool, learners pool, fitness suite and dance or exercise studio and artificial grass pitch – was able to offer a huge range of activities from spinning classes to aqua aerobics.
The centre also rents the grass pitches and sports hall from the Thomas Hardye School so they can be put to community use.
The plush new pool with its viewing gallery has enabled the centre to host a number of big gala events, including the Dorset Long Distance Championships and the Junior League Championships, and more are expected in the future.
The facility, which is operated by 1610 on behalf of West Dorset District Council, is regularly used by local schools, offering improved facilities to children in the town, and provides swimming lessons to around 900 people.
The centre is also able to cater for disabilities and is used by a number of local disability groups.
The gym facilities in the fitness suite are also a far cry from those at its predecessor, with modern equipment in a purpose-built room.
Mr Jenkins said: “There is an awful lot more, as well as having at least twice as many stations it’s a much nicer environment.”
The dance studio is also proving a success and now offers more than 60 classes, compared to 45 when the centre first started.
Other events hosted by the centre in its first year include the Dorchester Triathlon that attracted over 100 people.
Being part of 1610 also brings a charitable element to the sports centre with staff aiming to raise £2,000 for the organisation’s charity of the year, Macmillan Cancer Support.
The latest fundraising event saw staff row, cycle and swim 21 miles to represent the distance of the English Channel and Mr Jenkins said they were on track to reach their fundraising target.
He said being part of the leisure firm 1610 also brought other benefits as it meant the Dorchester facility could learn from other centres, Mr Jenkins said: “It does help being part of a leisure company rather than attached to the council because we learn from the other centres and we can share staff.”
The facility currently employs around 25 staff to man the facility from 6am to 11pm seven days a week and Mr Jenkins is among a number of those who have transferred over from the old Hardye centre.
Mr Jenkins said that, despite the centre’s success over the past year, staff would not be resting on their laurels and were always keen to listen to customers for suggestions on any areas they could improve.
He said: “We do take on board the comments people make about the centre.
“We look at every one and if we can change things we do.”
Skills for children
THE NEW facilities at the Dorchester Sports Centre have also provided a boost to local clubs.
The West Dorset Warriors swimming club has been able to host a gala event and there has been success for the West Dorset under 15 Water Polo team, which won the Dorset County Water Polo League for the first time in its history.
There was also success for the under 12 West Dorset Key Stage Two water polo team which achieved its highest ever ranking of second in its league.
Following the under 15 team’s success over Salisbury to clinch the title, coach Andrea Dabbs said the new pool had made a real difference to the performance of both sides.
She said: “We are all so proud of what the two teams have achieved but the new swimming pool and facilities at the sports centre has helped the children improve their performance dramatically. “Water polo is a great fun sport to take part in but the children still need good facilities if they are to take on teams from bigger towns and cities such as Bournemouth and Salisbury.”
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