Reading FC players Chris Gunter and Gareth McCleary were joined by Olympic diving gold medallist Chris Mears to officially open the recently refurbished Ryeish Green Leisure Centre on Wednesday (26 September).
Improvements at Ryeish Green have been made possible thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation; developer contributions; and Wokingham Borough Council’s new leisure contract with Places Leisure. More than £4m has been invested at the leisure centre but at no cost to the tax payer.
The Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund grant enabled Wokingham Borough Council to refurbish and extend the sports centre to provide four team changing rooms and indoor sports facilities. The works on the building were the final stages of the project, with the council having recently improved the natural grass pitches and installed a floodlit third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch (AGP) at the site.
The centre was originally closed in 2010, suffering from poor facilities which were no longer fit for purpose. However, the redevelopment with upgraded facilities has given the sports centre a new lease of life. The overhaul of the facilities includes: a 45 station gym for members, a studio, four-court sports hall, changing rooms, as well as a full-size 3G AGP and grass pitches.
Mayor of Wokingham, John Kaiser (centre), officially opens the refurbished facilities at Ryeish Green Leisure Centre alongside Reading FC players Chris Gunter and Gareth McCleary and Olympic diving gold medallist Chris Mears.
Students at neighbouring school, Oakbank will benefit from the new facilities during weekdays as part of their school sport curriculum. As well as the school pupils, partner football clubs Shinfield Rangers FC and Spencers Wood FC would be primary users of the new facility and look to grow to a combined 56 teams across the next five years.
Reading FC Community Trust (RFCCT) will use the site to deliver various community schemes as part of a Pro Club link with Ryeish Green Leisure Centre. This will include delivering weekly Premier League Kicks sessions as well as an extensive summer holiday programme.
Wokingham Borough Council were awarded a £245,000 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund towards the project. The council worked alongside the Football Foundation and the Berks & Bucks County FA to compile a five-year Football Development Plan, which is a vision of how sport will be played on site with an emphasis on increasing participation.
The new facilities will support the projected formation of 64 new football teams across junior and adult formats over the next five years. 14 of those new teams will be for adult male and female players, which will contribute to nearly 170 new people playing competitive football within this demographic.
Significant growth in the number of female players using the site is also expected, with seven new female teams created across all age groups. This has been identified as a key objective to deliver and is expected to result in over 130 new female participants playing football.
Since 2000, the Football Foundation Funding Partners’ investment has provided 284 grants worth £6.4m towards grassroots sports projects worth over £15.3m across the whole of Berks & Bucks County FA region.
Cllr Norman Jorgensen, executive member for environment, leisure and libraries, said: “I am delighted this state-of-the-art leisure facility in the Western part of Wokingham Borough is going from strength to strength since it opened.
“We continue to invest in our leisure facilities across the Wokingham Borough. These new facilities at Ryeish Green are provided at no cost to the tax payer. This fantastic sports hub been made possible by investments from the Premier League and the FA Facilities Fund as well as developer contributions. This was part of the planning agreements for the major housing developments in the area. There has also been planned investment thanks to the new leisure contract with Places Leisure. All of this investment will help immensely to improve grassroots sport in the local area.”
The new facilities at Ryeish Green
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “Grassroots sport plays an important role in communities across the UK, creating opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. That is why I am delighted that Wokingham Borough Council has now opened their state-of-the-art leisure centre, thanks to investment from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.
“Continuing to improve access to high-quality facilities like this one is a key aim for the Premier League, The FA and the Government. Delivered by the Football Foundation, their funding supports projects for clubs and organisations all over the country and is helping to boost the number of people benefiting from sport through better facilities.
“Grassroots football provides so many benefits for members of the community, not least of which is the opportunity to enjoy themselves. Love for our national game, something that can be found across the country, is an integral part of what drives the Foundation and its Funding Partners to keep increasing the standards and quality of our facilities.”