Manchester: Balancing elite sport and community access

Ambitious leisure partnership realizes Manchester’s potential, writes Ian Harkins, Head of Service for GLL in Manchester. Sponsored comment from GLL.

Elite sport is an integral part of Manchester. Its world-class venues host national teams and international events, from the 2002 Commonwealth Games to the 2022 European Taekwondo Championships.

Uniquely, each venue is also open to the public to participate in any of the sports offered there. Customers can play on the same squash court as Egyptian Hania El Hammamy, cycle on the same track as Dame Laura and Sir Jason Kenney, race on the same track as Sir Mo Farah and Keely Hodgkinson – and from 2023, following the reopening of the Manchester Aquatics Centre, swim in the same pool as Ellie Simmonds.

Across the region, Manchester City Council is working in partnership with charity social enterprise GLL to provide leisure services under the MCRactive brand. Bringing local communities to iconic spaces allows them to try different sports and inspires the next generation of local Manchester talent. Affordable ticket prices reduce barriers to participation, ensuring that health and well-being benefits are deeply felt, including in less-advantaged areas.

Schools and colleges are invited to discover leisure professions during our events.

Investment of £100 million

Our partnership with Manchester City Council will allow them to invest £100 million in the facilities over the next 18 months. This year will see the reopening of the Velodrome Arena at the National Cycling Centre, and 2023 will see the reopening of the Manchester Aquatics Center following a comprehensive refurbishment and the launch of the brand new Abraham Moss Leisure Centre.

Three new neighborhood leisure centers have recently opened in East Manchester: Hough End Leisure Center and Arcadia Library & Leisure Centre, as well as a completely refurbished center in Moss Side which now sees thousands of customers every day.

Increasing community use is of course a priority for public leisure facilities and GLL’s Better Swim School, the UK’s largest, teaches 5,600 children to swim each week in the city. Membership recovers after pandemic; it currently stands at 55,000 and is expected to climb as the new facilities open.

Collaboration in the community

The co-location of sports facilities, a medical practice and community organizations under one roof has created synergies in a model that the partnership seeks to replicate elsewhere.

Activating hard-to-reach groups creates social value, including an initiative to engage Afro-Caribbean women in swimming lessons, Bame women in weight management, cognitive behavioral therapy for self- assistance and neighborhood vacation activities for children. Working in conjunction with strategic city partners like Sure Start offers new opportunities for young families, including baby yoga, massage, and pre/postnatal water aerobics in pregnancy and infancy.

Debbie Keary of Sure Start in Manchester recognizes the importance of these activities. “Moss Side Recreation Center creates fun sessions for children and families in state-of-the-art facilities that also focus on physical development, address childhood obesity and help toddlers get the best start in life” , she says.

John Hacking (Lab), Executive Member for Skills, Employment and Leisure, adds: “Sport and physical activity is an integral part of Manchester’s DNA.

“As we embark on one of the largest public leisure investments in the UK, it is important to us that our partner shares our vision and can help shape our sport, health, leisure and leisure offering. long-term well-being for all our residents. .

“For nearly 30 years, GLL has been a recognized expert in providing public recreation, with a model that reinvests profits into local communities, programs and facilities. Our partnership reinforces our strategic priority to expand access for all, helping Mancunians live healthier and happier lives.

Mark Sesnan, Managing Director, GLL

The MCRactive partnership combines world-class facilities used by internationally competitive athletes with highly valued neighborhood venues that are central to the health and well-being of the local community.

“As a charitable social enterprise, GLL exists to get more people more active more often, so we are uniquely positioned to play an important role in expanding opportunity and addressing health inequities through regional and national government programs.”

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