Designing for Performance Athletes & Pre-Schollers

A groundbreaking new sports facility has opened in Colchester, designed by sports and leisure specialists GT3 Architects to combine the needs of both elite sports teams and local community groups.

Completed for Colchester Borough Council under the Scape Perfect Circle framework with Gleeds, RG Carter, AECOM and Pick Everard, the £29 million project delivers facilities that cater for the centre’s diverse range of stakeholders and creates a unique sports hub setting in the Northern Gateway area of the town.

The facilities include a new state of the art rugby pavilion with flexible function space, educational space, changing rooms and viewing gallery, across an array of new grass and 3G pitches for different sports and age groups. The site also contains a 1.5km closed circuit cycle racetrack, partly funded by British Cycling. The track caters for national competitions as well as local grass roots cycle clubs and community use, and includes a ‘learn to ride’ facility and pump track.

Central to the site and connecting to the pitches and racetrack is the council’s new dry sports centre. This houses a large flexible sports hall space including indoor cricket, gym space with dedicated equipment for cyclists, studios, velo studio, cycle hub, retail units, classroom space and a large café with views onto the 3G pitches and cycle track.  Externally, the site is supported by a full-size archery range and equestrian trails.

Mark Gowdridge, director at GT3 Architects, said:

“The opening of this exciting sports hub marks the result of a successful collaboration between all parties. With so many stakeholders involved – Colchester Borough Council, local residents and junior sports groups, Rugby Union and League, local College and schools, British Archery, English Cricket Board, Badminton England, Equestrian groups, local cycle clubs, Sport England and British Cycling – we needed to deliver a scheme that would suit everyone’s needs.”

“Engaging with all parties via our Performance + engagement tool was crucial – understanding each user-group’s different goals, outcomes and concerns allowed us to design a facility mix which capitalises on the dynamics of space and maximises performance, ultimately delivering the best results for the people and organisations that will use it.”

“It also allowed us to meet the leisure and fitness requirements for the wider local community, whilst delivering high-quality facilities needed for elite sport.”

The centre will address key health needs in the local area and provide a diverse range of facilities for the local community. Residents will benefit from facilities designed to an elite sport level and exercise alongside national athletes in the new cycle track and rugby training centre.

Mark added:

“In addition to meeting the site’s diverse user needs, we needed to ensure the design was ecologically sound. We undertook extensive research to deliver a high performing design, sensitive to the local surroundings and which blurs the lines between inside and out.”

“The scheme blends into its environment, with a strong use of timber in the main sports centre. The choice of materials is not only sensitive to the landscape but also ensures durability. We want the scheme to act as a high performing, welcoming fitness hub for both community wellbeing and elite sport for years to come.”

The leisure centre is now open and is already being used by the 900 junior members of the Colchester Rugby Club.

For further information visit or join the conversation over on Twitter @_GT3Architects.