Wednesday, 04 August 2021

£4m upgrade of sports centre

A £4 MILLION upgrade of the sports centre at the Oratory School in Woodcote has begun.

A £4 MILLION upgrade of the sports centre at the Oratory School in Woodcote has begun.

The complex, which will re-open in October next year, is to be equipped with a 25m, five-lane swimming pool.

There will be showers by the poolside, new changing rooms, a viewing area and a café as well as an improved gym.

As with the old centre, which had a 22m pool, it will be open to the public. It will be open from 7am to 10pm during the week, although some evenings will be set aside for school use.

The centre will have a separate entrance for the pupils and a social area for the sixth-formers. The Oratory began planning the upgrade four years ago.

It decided that half of the existing sports centre, which was built in the Eighties, could be renovated but the other half, including the old pool, needed to be knocked down and rebuilt from scratch.

In 2011, the school spent £1 million renovating the sports hall and buying new cricket nets and gym equipment as well as eight rowing machines. The new building was given planning permission early last year and the old pool was demolished in August.

When the complex is finished, the school will move its 15 or so items of gym equipment to the new wing and buy about 15 more.

These will be divided into two separate areas — one for cardiovascular exercise and one for weights.

The squash and real tennis courts will also get a new roof and will be repainted and resurfaced.

The school will offer different membership types depending on which facilities people want to use.

While the work is being carried out, existing members have been using the pool at the Oratory Prep School in Goring Heath.

The centre is used by a number of local clubs, including Woodcote Swimming Club and Goring Cygnets, and personnel at RAF Benson.

Headmaster Clive Dytor said Woodcote residents had called for better sports facilities in their draft neighbourhood plan.

He said: “This is a big project because it is not just for the boys here but for the local community.

“It will be the same basic arrangement as before but with much better facilities. It is going to be really, really popular.

“We have had lots of positive feedback about it. This is a massive boost to Woodcote and the whole of South Oxfordshire.”

The project is part of a 15-year overhaul of Oratory’s facilities that started in 2000. The programme has included new boarding houses, improved classrooms and a new theatre and drama department, which opened last year.

Last month, Langtree School in Woodcote won a £109,000 Olympic legacy grant to build a floodlit artificial pitch for the village.

It must raise the rest of the £200,000 cost before it can submit a planning application to South Oxfordshire District Council.

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