Spiceball Leisure Centre was the main sports facility as part of a wider development of leisure services for Cherwell District council, which also included major alterations and extensions to Kidlington and Bicester Leisure Centres. This project was won by BRL Architects and Parkwood Leisure in a competitive Design, Build, Operate and Manage (DBOM) bid to the local authority. Whilst not the cheapest, in collaboration with BRL Architects, the Parkwood Consortium secured the contract on the basis of design and maximising the potential of the site.
The site allocated for the new Spiceball Leisure Centre was a challenging irregular shaped parcel of greenfield land, surrounded on two sides by major arterial roads and with the River Cherwell on the southern boundary. Given the physical constraints of the site, the design concept was to locate the two large volumes of the pool hall and eight court sports hall either side of a three storey central core of ancillary functions, cranked at an angle to maximise the site.
Public buildings of this nature necessitate careful organisation of spaces, ensuring visitors that are not familiar with the building can easily navigate through them. Spiceball achieves this by utilising a central atrium space next to the principle entrance, which orientates people using the facility as they enter.
Externally, the architectural challenge was to visually break-down the large extent of blank walls, particularly for the pool and sports halls. A modular panel system with applied mullions and transoms gave the illusion of curtain walling on the northern and southern sides of these spaces and lightened the perceived mass of the building.
A new small suspension bridge over the River Cherwell connected Spiceball Leisure Centre to the extended parking area and town centre beyond. This connection to the town centre was an integral requirement for the local authority and has facilitated a growth in participation due to the accessibility to the facility.
Located on a main junction of a busy arterial road leading directly off the M40 motorway, Spiceball Leisure Centre acts as a gateway development for the town and possesses a civic quality in its design and presence.
Buildings of this nature represent significant capital expenditures for Councils and as such, should have a quality and presence of which the local residents can be rightly proud.