A new operator is being sought for the gym and swimming pool at the John Smith’s Stadium – as it was revealed that the rent alone was £400,000 a year.
Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL), the charitable trust which runs sports and leisure centres on behalf of Kirklees Council, pulled out of its lease and shut the gym at the end of November giving staff and members just a week’s notice.
A public consultation document into the future of the district’s leisure centres said that the Stadium Health & Fitness Club lost more than £500,000 a year and would need £288,000 in essential maintenance over the next three years.
KAL is also relocating its head office from the stadium to Huddersfield Leisure Centre.
At a meeting of Kirklees Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday there was a question from a member of the public, Ken Shaw, who asked who had taken the decision to close the stadium gym.
In reply, Clr Graham Turner, Cabinet member for finance and regeneration, said: “KAL authorised the closure in conjunction with our officers.”
Then he added: “I have had the latest operating costs today and it was costing £400,000 a year in rent alone without any operating costs on top of that.
“Unfortunately, it was costing far too much for the return and the amount of people using it. It’s far too expensive to operate at the moment.
“We are talking to alternative providers to see whether someone wants to take it on under a different operating model but those conversations are still ongoing.”
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Clr Andrew Marchington (Golcar) appeared surprised that Clr Turner had revealed the cost of the rent being paid by KAL when talks were underway with other operators.
“Why is that not commercially sensitive information?” he asked.
Clr Turner said the information had been supplied to him by KAL and added: “This is not commercially sensitive because KAL have now pulled out.”
On a wider scale, the amount being paid in rent to Kirklees Stadium Development Ltd, the company which runs the John Smith’s Stadium, shows the extent of the blow to the stadium’s finances by the closure of the gym.
The three partners who own the stadium – Kirklees Council (40%), Huddersfield Town (40%) and Huddersfield Giants (20%) – are currently in talks about the future ownership.
The council has already said it won’t put any more money into the day-to-day running costs of the stadium and it wants to hand over operational control to Town or Town and the Giants in partnership.
The Cabinet approved a new operating model for leisure centres in 2024-25, confirming that Colne Valley Leisure Centre in Slaithwaite and Batley Sports & Tennis Centre at Howden Clough would both remain open.
Dewsbury Sports Centre, where damaged RAAC concrete had been found, would remain closed pending an investigation into the feasibility of re-opening the ‘dry side’ but not the pool.
Deighton Sports Arena will stay open until April while talks with alternative operators continue.
Clr Turner said it was sad to have lost the stadium gym and Batley Baths, which closed a year ago, and blamed the Government’s lack of funding for local authorities as the root cause.
He said as a result of the changes and restructuring KAL would be more efficient and the council would work closely with KAL to help it stabilise over the next year.
He said this could be a “turning point” for KAL and he urged the public to set up friends’ groups to support their local leisure centre.
He added: “I would also like to encourage more people to join KAL and help support them. These are your services and supporting them rather than a large national chain will help them keep going. It’s the equivalent of a ‘shop local’ campaign – swim local, train local.”
During the next financial year (2024-25) KAL will continue to operate the following: Batley Sports & Tennis Centre; Bradley Park Golf Club; Colne Valley Leisure Centre; Holmfirth Pool and Fitness Centre; Huddersfield Leisure Centre; Leeds Road Sports Complex; Scissett Baths & Fitness Centre; and Spen Valley Leisure Centre & Princess Mary Stadium/Running Track at Cleckheaton.