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Time capsules mark fifth birthday of Abbeycroft Leisure in Suffolk

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Suffolk-based Abbeycroft Leisure has marked its fifth birthday by planting time capsules to be opened again in 20 years.

For five years, Abbeycroft Leisure has been helping to keep the borough of St Edmundsbury fit and healthy through its operation of Haverhill and Bury Leisure Centres and its sport outreach programme Abbeycroft on the Move.

Two time capsules, made by Haverhill firm General Metal Construction, containing photos of events, activities and staff were planted at Bury and Haverhill Leisure Centres.

They also contained messages from staff describing what they think the centre and exercise in general will look like in 20 years time.

The five years has seen both challenges and triumphs. In 2004, as St Edmundsbury Borough Council was about to hand over the operation of the Bury Leisure Centre to Abbeycroft Leisure, the newly formed leisure trust, a fire destroyed the roof of the building. It was 18 months before the building could be opened and the council took the opportunity to bring forward a large Capital Investment programme of £7m which included some new additions including a 25m short course pool, a competition swimming pool, a moveable floor in the pool area, a 100 station gym and a new communal changing village.

Last year Abbeycroft unveiled the newly refurbished Haverhill Leisure Centre, following a £5.2m Capital Investment programme by St Edmundsbury Borough Council. The Centre, which had to close for a year while this work was carried out, gave Abbeycroft the opportunity to invest £250,000 to erect a pod to continue its gym and exercise class service to the local community. It also relocated its popular Keep Active and Tuesday Club activities to other venues in the town. Despite the move, three quarters of its customers continued to use the facilities in the pod with new people joining.

The newly refurbished centre was unveiled last year and has a new fitness centre with state-of-the-art exercise machines, a health suite, dedicated combat training and martial arts room, an area for table tennis, a new spinning studio, a sports hall with a Beijing Olympics style floor, and Kid City, a brand new children's indoor play area. The swimming pool also has poolside spectator seating.

At Bury Leisure Centre Abbeycroft has raised memberships from 400 prior to the fire to 1,900 and at Haverhill membership has increased from 1,200 prior to the closure to 1,600. The centre's now receive over half a million visits a year and the company employs 197 people.

This year, with both centres now fully operational, Abbeycroft had a turnover of £3.3m.

In the last five years Abbeycroft has also launched the prestigious St Edmundsbury Sports Awards to recognise local sport talent, been chosen to host the official training camp for the Rwandan Olympic Team in 2012 at the West Suffolk Athletics Arena and held the Sport Relief Mile for the first time.

In addition to managing the leisure centres, the company also runs Abbeycroft on the Move, the sport outreach programme in the borough, and in the last year alone 4,150 people have taken part in these activities.

Abbeycroft has also worked with partners to initiate the Community Sports Network, a project to increase participation in sport and physical activity and to build an infrastructure that allows sporting opportunities to be developed and delivered in a positive environment. It assisted in the development of an action plan that has delivered over 21 different projects to the community resulting in 4,979 participants.

Chief Executive Warren Smyth said: "We are incredibly proud of the achievements we have made in the last five years. We have seen many challenges but also wonderful developments and innovations which have helped the community take part in more exercise and more sport.

"The leisure centres are not only a place to go to keep fit now. They are very much a part of people's lives. For many they are a social place to meet friends and try out new activities."

Photograph: (L-R) Dominic Greenwood, General Manager of Haverhill Leisure Centre; Brian Jones, Chairman of Abbeycroft Leisure; Cllr Patricia Warby, Mayor of St Edmundsbury; Warren Smyth, CEO of Abbeycroft Leisure; and Alison Bowyer, Abbeycroft's Business Development Manager

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Suffolk-based Abbeycroft Leisure has marked its fifth birthday by planting time capsules to be opened again in 20 years.
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