National contractor Wates Construction has reached a significant milestone in the construction of Sandwell Aquatics Centre, in Smethwick.

Structural steelwork has now begun at the £73m state-of-the-art leisure facility with the first three roof trusses and main frame now erected, giving scale to the site and its facilities within. By the end of the year, 14 trusses will have been installed in total, each spanning 75m and weighing around 30 tonnes.

It marks the first stage of the centre taking form above-ground, with the Wates team spending the summer months carefully creating the 50m Olympic-sized pool – the only one of its size in the Midlands – as well as a 25m diving pool and community swimming pool. Some 3,000m3 of concrete were used in the pools’ creation, which had to be carefully poured to an accuracy of mere millimetres to comply with Olympic standards.

With procurement being accelerated and performance managed through Scape – the UK’s leading public procurement authority – this state-of-the-art facility will create a lasting legacy for community health and wellbeing, with its three pools and seats for up to 1,000 spectators.

Other facilities at the aquatics centre will include three activity studios, two 4-court sports halls, a 108-station fitness suite with a 25-station ladies-only gym, dry diving facilities, an indoor cycling studio, a new football pitch, a café, and changing facilities including a sauna and steam room. Externally, a new urban park will feature a children’s play area.

With the frame in place, the team will now start work creating the walls and roof of the building, as well as completing the installation of the 10m dive tower before Christmas.

Construction started on site in September 2019, with Wates working closely with Sandwell Council and its supply chain to ensure work continued safely on site during the national lockdown earlier this year. The contractor collaborated with all delivery partners to ensure new health and safety measures and social distancing guidelines were put in place quickly, meaning the project is still on schedule.

The project is set to complete in spring 2022 and will open to the public in the spring of 2023.

John Carlin, regional managing director for the Midlands at Wates Construction, said:

“We’ve been on site for a year now, building the pools and laying all the groundwork, but with the steel framework in place we are really starting to demonstrate the sheer size of this ambitious, exciting build. It is a true landmark for the region and will offer so many benefits to the community in the local area and far beyond.

“Sandwell Aquatics Centre represents an incredibly complex feat of design and engineering and, despite the external challenges of COVID-19, we’re right on track to deliver it on schedule. This is entirely due to the expertise, hard work and determination of everyone involved – our site teams, local apprentices, supply chain and Sandwell Council – and I look forward to the next milestone being reached.”

Councillor Maria Crompton, Deputy Leader of Sandwell Council, said:

“It is just amazing seeing the new aquatics centre come to life. The steel truss and frame has really added a sense of scale and you can visualise just how great this centre will be as a facility for local people.

“The construction of this new facility has already benefited local residents by giving them the opportunity to gain employment as apprentices on this major project. I want to thank everyone who has been working tirelessly to make sure we remain on track to deliver this world-class centre for our residents.”

Mark Robinson, group chief executive of Scape, said:

“Continued public investment of this nature is absolutely essential in helping the UK to build back better. The accelerated delivery of this world-class facility is a testament to the ambition of Sandwell Council, the strength in the Wates team and the talent of the local supply chain, coming together to deliver something really special.

“Once complete, this new centre will play a key role in the community, championing sporting participation and wellbeing. I can’t wait to see Sandwell Council’s vision come to life.”

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