Public sector consultancy V4 Services has worked in partnership with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council (ABC) to develop and open Northern Ireland’s new flagship leisure facility.
South Lake Leisure Centre is the latest completion for V4 Services in the leisure sector and is the largest project in the council’s ambitious capital investment programme. Located overlooking the stunning Craigavon Lakes, the new state-of-the-art facility offers a 50m pool, the largest gym in Northern Ireland, an eight-court sports hall, multiple studios, a health and wellbeing suite, a children’s leisure pool, a soft play zone and Café IncredABLE, a social enterprise that creates meaningful opportunities for people with a learning or intellectual disability, including those with autism.
One of the most significant recent investments in health and wellbeing in Northern Ireland, the £35m facility has been developed to meet the needs of a growing population and increased demand for a range of leisure and professional sporting enthusiasts regionally. Construction of the multi-million-pound transformative build project was undertaken by local contractor Farrans, with consultancy advice and support delivered by V4 Services throughout the entire project lifecycle, from preliminary concept and masterplanning to design, implementation and aftercare.
Selected by the council in 2015, the V4 Services specialist leisure team delivered a number of services over the course of the project, including early-stage affordability, needs analysis, business planning support and procurement support and advice, utilising evidence-based practices to drive all decision-making throughout the process. The business case developed by V4 Services was predicated on a rationalisation plan that involved the replacement of three older facilities in the Craigavon area with this world-class facility. Whole-of-life savings were generated to fund the capital costs and to reduce dependency on council funding in the longer term.
After completing the business case and developing the investment strategy, the team also provided the strategic advice and support initially before moving to the necessary practical and operational inputs for the highly ambitious project.
Led by Steve Laird, the multidisciplinary team combined experience across leisure operations, financial, procurement and sales and marketing to ensure the project was delivered efficiently and that any challenges were quickly and effectively overcome. A significant challenge the team encountered was a need to break down the silos that are barriers to transformation. To overcome this, regular review meetings were held across the council, allowing new relationships to develop and different departments to highlight areas that needed consideration based on their specific expertise.
Mark Parkinson, Strategic Director People at ABC Council, said: “The council’s vision was very ambitious and required a major cultural change and transformation programme, as well as an investment programme. We appointed V4 Services as our trusted advisors in 2015 and they have been our business partners throughout the lifecycle of the project, culminating in the opening of the South Lake Leisure Centre on 2nd November 2020.
“V4 provided total commitment to achieving our project objectives, and have been very hands-on, applying their wide-ranging sector knowledge across all aspects of the project and creating a real culture change in how people behave. The team were dedicated to the project and the timeline, and wholly supported the council during the pandemic, ensuring safe and controlled management and support. I would have no hesitation in recommending the V4S team to any other authority that needs to turn their vision into reality.”
Lesley Kippax, Director at V4 Services, added: “We were delighted to have the opportunity to deliver this spectacular leisure facility for the people of Armagh, Bainbridge and Craigavon. Our dedicated team invested themselves right from the start of the project to carve out a pathway to delivery that would support the council’s overall mission and bring their ambitious vision to life. I’m hugely proud of what the team have achieved with ABC Council and the relationships we have developed.”
As part of the council’s commitment to high levels of spend within the local market and small- to medium-sized enterprises, local contractor Farrans Construction was appointed to lead the construction of the project. As well as creating more than 500 jobs during the construction phase and dedicating half a million man hours to the project, Farrans was committed to providing a positive legacy in the local community through skills development, education and local capital investment.