The biggest leisure centre in the borough has been officially unveiled by Waltham Forest Council ahead of its public opening on Monday 3rd October.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the £23million Waltham Forest Feel Good Centre in Chingford Road, Walthamstow, was held on Thursday morning. It featured local Olympic hero Lutalo Muhammad, a silver medallist in taekwondo at last month’s Rio Games.
The huge new leisure complex features a 25-metre eight-lane competition pool, two diving boards, teaching pool, four-court sports hall, activity room, dance studios, 132-station gym, outdoor floodlit sports pitch, newly revamped athletics track and 150-seat grandstand, climbing walls, trampoline park, adventure zone, ‘play kingdom’ for small children, and luxury spa.
Alongside the trampolines and adventure zone in the Feel Good Centre’s ‘extreme sports’ hall is a ninja course that features vertical and horizontal climbing walls, ‘hang tough’ bars and battle beam; similar to events seen in television shows such as Gladiators. It is said to be the first permanent facility of its kind in London.
Lutalo, after helping cut the ribbon to officially launch the facility, told the Echo: “The trampolines were fun but I quickly realised I’d eaten too many pies since I got back from Rio!
“This centre is amazing, I love the climbing wall and all of the facilities in here. There are more extreme sports coming into the Olympics now and any kids with Olympic aspirations will make use of it.
“Waltham Forest Council is really investing in sports facilities and it is great to see.”
Lutalo, who grew up in Walthamstow and still lives in the area, had previously trained at Waltham Forest Pool and Track, the leisure centre demolished to make way for the new Feel Good Centre.
He added: “Maybe the next Olympic champion will come to this leisure centre, who knows. It is bigger, better, and badder, than the old track and pool, I am actually jealous this wasn’t here when I was younger.
“I’m going to make sure I come back and do some training here – as long as they give me a free membership!”
Waltham Forest Feel Good Centre, although financed by the council, will be operated and managed by Greenwich Leisure Limited, a charitable social enterprise. The building is fully wheelchair accessible, including the swimming pool which features a special lift for disabled swimmers.
In a speech thanking everyone involved, council leader Chris Robbins said: “I am sure this is going to be a facility not just for Waltham Forest but the whole of south-east England. It is the start of a new style of leisure facility and we are very proud to have it here.”
The new leisure complex is not without criticism, however. While previous facilities at Waltham Forest Pool and Track included a five-metre diving board and separate diving pool, which Olympic medallist Peter Waterfield credited with launching his career, the new building omits such features.
A local diving club which raised concerns during the planning process was told instead to use facilities at the London Aquatic Centre in Stratford, four miles away.
The council also boasts in a brochure promoting the Feel Good Centre that the new leisure complex will help address public health concerns in the borough, and that as part of this the vending machines have “not a crisp or chocolate bar or fizzy drink in sight”. But at Thursday’s launch event, the vending machines were stocked with a variety of crisps and three different flavours of fizzy drink.
A basic adult membership of Waltham Forest Feel Good Centre costs £49.80 per month.
Waltham Forest Feel Good Centre image gallery:
The climbing wall, part of a ninja obstacle course