THE doors to South Shields’ £16m leisure complex were to be officially opened today.
Champion swimmer Nicole Lough took the first dip in the Haven Point’s 25-metre pool at 9am.
But before the ribbon across the doors was cut, the Gazette was given an exclusive look around the facility.
The landmark building in Pier Parade, South Shields, was originally due to be opened six months ago, but fell behind schedule.
The state-of-the-art complex, inspired by the coastline and the sea, features striking architecture, and stunning views across the harbour and the seafront.
Bryan Atkinson, corporate lead for cultural services at South Tyneside Council, said: “We’re all just absolutely amazed. This is a fantastic building we’ve got here.
“Five years ago, when we sat down and looked at what we might be able to do here, we had a vision and the architect had a vision.
“All the feedback we’ve had from people who’ve been working in the building, and the people getting it ready for opening day, has been brilliant. Everyone has said how fantastic it is.”
The new centre’s showpiece is a 25-metre, eight-lane competition pool, which will be the only of its type in the North East, and features the latest hi-tech electronic scoreboard with specially-designed Omega Timing, so that the borough’s champion swimmers, like Josef Craig and Nicole, can measure their times to 1,000ths of a second.
Another feature is a moveable hydraulic floor, meaning the pool’s depth can be varied.
There is also a teaching pool – which at 18 metres by 10 metres is larger than the standard.
That pool also boasts a moveable floor, making it possible for more people to enjoy a variety of activities at the same time.
The leisure pool features two flumes, plus a water play area for younger children, with bridges, slides, sprays, a bubble pool and a ‘bubble beach’ feature.
Parents can also enjoy relaxing in the ‘bubble spa’ area, as well as the sauna and steam room.
Haven Point’s seafront location is emphasised by a meeting room with stunning views across the harbour towards Tynemouth Priory, as well as an outdoor amphitheatre, grassed area and viewing area.
The leisure facility also includes dance studios with sprung floors, a gym with more than 80 machines which each have their own TVs, powered by the person exercising. Mr Atkinson added: “There was a bit of anticipation about the opening, as we know everyone will want to be in at once, so we will ask people if they can just bear with us.
“We want everyone to have a good experience, and we’re looking forward to welcoming everyone here.
“I’m sure they’ll be absolutely knocked out when they see the building.”
To find out about memberships, go to www.southtyneside.info/leisure