Sandwell Aquatics Centre team shares expertise with Australian delegation

The Sandwell Aquatics Centre swimming poolAn international research project from Australia has visited Sandwell Aquatics Centre to learn best practice ahead of the Australian State of Victoria hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2026.

A delegation of experts, led by Master Builders Victoria (MBV), met Wates Construction and Sandwell Council to learn about project delivery and legacy plans for the local area.

The visit showcased the Sandwell Aquatics Centre and how it was built by Wates during the pandemic, as well as wider challenges the team faced to deliver the world-class venue on time. 

The MBV delegation is visiting locations in Europe, the UK, and the Americas to gather knowledge on how industry counterparts are solving some of the issues Australia faces.

Visitors from organisations including MBV, the Australian State Government of Victoria and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, toured the site and met the Wates project team as well as the cabinet member for leisure Councillor Laura Rollins and Tony McGovern, the director for regeneration and economy at Sandwell Council. 

Sandwell Aquatics Centre was built to leave a community legacy in the West Midlands as well as host one of the largest international sporting events of 2022.  The next stage of the project is currently underway, which will develop the Centre into a community leisure facility to be opened in 2023, including removing 4,000 spectator seats and installing additional leisure facilities.

The centre includes an Olympic-sized pool, a ten-metre high dive tower with a 25-metre dive pool, a 108-station fitness suite, an indoor cycling studio and a new football pitch. 

Designed with the community in mind, diversity and inclusion is at the heart of its design, including a women-only gym that will offer greater privacy for Muslim women who want to exercise without their hijab, and submersible lifts into community pools to support those with disabilities.

John Carlin, regional director for Wates Construction, Midlands said: “It’s been great to be able to meet the team from Australia to share best practice and what we’ve learned from building Sandwell Aquatics Centre. We see it as helping to ‘pass the torch’ to the next Games. 

“After a fantastic summer of sport, the development of the Centre into a leading community leisure facility is well underway. It’s important to us to demonstrate how major projects like these must be community focused from the start –  and how social value can be delivered all over the world.”

MBV CEO Rebecca Casson commented that what Wates had achieved with the project despite the pandemic, was remarkable. She said: “Understanding the work Wates did, and their engagement with local councils and local community stakeholders, provides many lessons for our sector as it works towards building the Commonwealth Games infrastructure in Victoria in time for the 2026 Games.

“It was great to see the legacy of the Sandwell Aquatic Centre and how it will continue to benefit the community for years to come.”

Tony McGovern said: “After the success of hosting the swimming and diving events at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre this summer, we are excited to welcome MBV, who are visiting from Australia to undertake research to help identify opportunities and best practices ahead of delivering the Commonwealth Games 2026 in Victoria, Australia.

“This visit acknowledges Sandwell Aquatics Centre’s reputation as a world-class leisure facility on a global platform. It was always designed as a community leisure facility first, and adapted for the Commonwealth Games, rather than the other way round. It is the only one of its kind in the West Midlands and will not only be used by Sandwell residents as a local leisure centre but will also be used for competitive training for future aspiring athletes from Sandwell and the region. 

“Our contractors Wates are now hard at work putting the finishing touches on the Games legacy local facilities for our residents and Sandwell Aquatics Club and the centre is expected to open summer 2023.”