A MULTI-MILLION pound refurbishment of a popular sports and leisure centre is nearing completion.
The Billingham Forum, which opened in the 1960s, has had a £18.5m revamp to turn it into a state-of-the art leisure centre and theatre for future generations.
Now, after 18 months, work is almost finished and the Forum is due to open to the public in June.
The Hartlepool Mail was invited along to a sneak preview by construction firm Morgan Sindall yesterday.
The exterior of the forum has been given a bright new look with blue, white and yellow cladding.
And a new entrance aims to create a “wow factor” for users.
Councillor Ken Lupton, leader of Stockton Borough Council, said: “I think it’s absolutely fantastic the way they have got to this stage in 18 months.
“It will be a wonderful asset for Billingham and the borough as a whole.
“In terms of the effect on Billingham town centre, that’s going to be a catalyst that will bring in new businesses and regenerate this area.”
The wide-ranging work has included a revamped swimming pool with refurbished changing rooms and spectator areas.
Its popular ice rink is getting a new surface and improved spectator area while the theatre has been structurally improved including a new roof.
However, the familiar wooden panelling inside remains in tact and is listed.
Work was delayed following the discovery of higher levels of asbestos than expected but the project is back on course for completion in May.
Elsewhere, the reception area has been opened up and will include a new cafe and seating.
The bowls court has been given a new surface and the gym has been extended to create room for an extra 30 fitness stations. And the four court sports hall and two squash courts have also been included for upgrades.
The council says the work will increase the Forum’s lifespan for up to 30 years.
Project manager Simon Hodgson, of Morgan Sindall, said: “The project has generally gone very smoothly. “There were major structural issues with the building but we have worked hand in hand with the council and tried to assist when issues came up.
“We are really pleased with the building and can’t wait to give it back to the council and community.”
Behind the scenes, Stockton Borough Council has invested in an advanced heating control system which will see heat from the pool reused in other parts of the building.
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