As a new month enters the new decade, residents are reminded of the furious fire that devoured the sauna and swimming pool area of the Riverside Leisure Centre on the night of February 21, 2016. On that fateful night, a total number of 120 firefighters and 17 fire engines responded to fight against the fiery beast. Unfortunately, it didn’t leave without causing significant damages to the roof and structure of the building which forced the center to close down.
While certain parts of the center, such as the sports hall, gym, and fitness studios, soon reopened after the incident, the pool area and health suite are still closed four years later. Many promises of reopening were made by the Exeter City Council over the last few years. But in June 2019, when they realized that some parts of the building need to be rebuilt, the Council finally admitted to the public that a reopening would not possibly happen until around 2020.
Council Director Jo Yelland has been directly overseeing the rebuilding process to make sure that everything is running smoothly while keeping close to the approved budget. While the reopening date is still uncertain at the moment, Yelland assures everyone that the entire team is doing the best they can for this project, “Rebuilding is the right thing to do even though it has taken a long time. When it does reopen, we want it to be in the best possible start it could be and provide the amount of longevity from that investment.”
Agreeing that rebuilding the Centre is necessary, project manager Justin Pickford reveals that some of the problems they discovered in the building are due to its old age. He further explains that the process became longer than intended because they have to strictly follow safety protocols. Rest assured, Pickford and his team are thinking about the building’s future, “As those challenges magnified, we realized we should be replacing everything to the highest possible standard to future proof it. If we didn’t deal with it now, we would have had to do it in a few years’ time.”
Moving forward, Jo Yelland lays down their plans to make sure such a tragedy will not happen again. He further added that they are already planning for the roof this year. And when everything is finished, annual maintenance of the center shall be done to ensure its safety to the public.