Commonwealth Games bid fast-tracks case for new aquatics centre

Wasps Netball at the Ricoh Arena

The right to stage the 2022 Commonwealth Games would spearhead a major regeneration of sporting facilities across not just Birmingham, but the wider West Midlands, the team behind the Games bid has said.

The lasting economic benefits to the region have been outlined with the announcement that a successful bid would herald a new aquatics centre for the Black Country.

The team behind the bid has revealed that the new centre in Sandwell would be one of three additional venues to be used for the Games – the others being the Ricoh Arena in Coventry and Villa Park.

The new venues also highlight how the Games would be a West Midlands-wide event and not something limited to just Birmingham.

The bid team said the Sandwell aquatics centre would host swimming, para-swimming and diving, while the Ericsson Indoor Arena, part of the Ricoh Arena in Coventry – and home to Wasps Netball – would host the Games’ netball tournament.

Following its success staging two games during the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Villa Park would also be used by stage the Rugby 7s competition.

The announcements by the bid team follow the visit to the city by the Commonwealth Games Development Unit (CGDU).

Plans for Sandwell’s new Aquatics Centre are well underway and follow a public consultation and cabinet report to Sandwell Council in the spring which identified the need for competitive swimming facilities within the borough as a priority. The plans for the new centre align with national sports strategies.

Initially proposed as a leisure complex comprising a 50-metre pool and community leisure facilities, a Commonwealth Games in the region would see the Sandwell Aquatics Centre plans upgraded, to include a warm-up pool and competition diving pool with a moveable floor.

Diving is an optional sport within the Commonwealth Games sports roster but has been included by the 2022 bid in recognition of the public’s support for and the country’s potential, to win medals in the discipline.

The pool would also leave a legacy for Sandwell’s own local community, as well as those living nearby.

Scheduled to be operational in 2021, permanent poolside spectator seating for up to 1,000 will also be a venue legacy, with a further 4,000 seats installed on a temporary basis during the Games.

It will also extend to the regenerative impact of the Games to the Black Country.

Cllr Steve Eling, leader of Sandwell Council, said: “The Birmingham 2022 bid is comprehensive and will provide benefits to the whole of the region, including Sandwell. We have been talking for a while about renewing and continuing to improve our leisure facilities in Sandwell and we are excited that our new build Aquatics Centre will become one of the Games venues for swimming and diving.”

Paul Brown, Black Country LEP board member and chair of its Competitiveness Advisory Board, said the LEP supported the bid because of the economic and inspirational benefits it would bring to the area.

“The Games will provide a golden opportunity for our local athletes to compete on home ground and raise the aspirations of our residents and businesses to be part of an international event,” he said.

“The planned Aquatic Centre at Sandwell, which will include a competition sized swimming pool will provide a sporting and economic legacy for the Black Country as well as the West Midlands.  We are all looking forward to a successful conclusion to the bidding process with a West Midlands win so we can begin the planning process in earnest and maximise the opportunities that such an event will bring both for our residents and businesses.”

The bid has a powerful – and globally-recognised – ambassador in the form of five-time Paralympic swimming gold medallist Ellie Simmonds, from Walsall.

She said: “It is great news that the West Midlands will finally be getting a world-class competition standard swimming pool. When I was a youngster progressing up the rankings I had to move from Walsall to Wales in order to find facilities of the standard I needed to train.

“The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and the Sandwell Aquatics Centre will inspire the next generation of swimmers as well as encourage the local community to enjoy swimming and diving and learn a valuable life skill.”

The Ericsson Indoor Arena said the decision to use the venue would reinforce its reputation as a netball centre of excellence.

The 6,000 sqm arena, home to Wasps Netball – winners of the Vitality Netball Superleague in their debut season, would stage all the 2022 netball fixtures, including preliminaries and finals, with 5,000 temporary seats being installed for the Games.

As with the aquatics centre, the Coventry & Warwickshire LEP has given its full support for the venue.
Jonathan Browning, LEP chairman, said: “Hosting the Commonwealth Games in the West Midlands would bring huge benefits to the region.

“We’re delighted that the Ericsson Indoor Arena at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry has been selected as one of the venues included in the bid.

“We witnessed the array of positive impacts bringing the London 2012 (Olympic) Games to Coventry and Warwickshire brought to the region, and it would be fantastic to welcome visitors from across the Commonwealth back to our area.

“The West Midlands has all the credentials in place to host a brilliant Commonwealth Games and we are pleased to be working with our colleagues across the region to support the bid.”

Nick Eastwood, Group Chief Executive at Wasps / Ricoh Arena, said: “The Ericsson Indoor Arena at the Ricoh Arena is recognised as a centre of excellence across a number of sports, including netball.

“We regularly host Rugby, Netball, Football, Snooker and Weightlifting championships at the venue and have previously held Davis Cup Tennis as well as concerts for Craig David, Jess Glynn and Peter Kay.

“We have the facilities, the team and a huge community of local sports fans who will ensure that Birmingham 2022 would be the best Commonwealth Games netball tournament ever.”

Birmingham city councillor, Ian Ward, chair of the Commonwealth Games Bid Company, said:“We looked long and hard at the existing international standard venues within the region and are proud to have developed a bid that offers a compact Games with 95% of venues already available. We could not have done that without the support of Ricoh Arena, which is on our doorstep.

“Combined with the new Sandwell Aquatics Centre, which is an important sports and community investment and our only proposed new-build facility and Villa Park, which has recently hosted Rugby World Cup fixtures, these West Midlands venues will ensure that the benefits of a Birmingham 2022 Games will reach far and wide.”