Live Active Leisure set to remove its services from Bell's Sports Centre from August 2024

Bell's Sports Centre, North Inch, Perth
Bell's Sports Centre, North Inch, Perth -Credit:Perthshire Advertiser

Controversial plans to remove services from Bell’s Sports Centre are set to go ahead in the summer.

Perth and Kinross Council has now been asked by Live Active Leisure to remove its services from the centre and relocate them to Dewars Centre by August 31.

The request – which has been recommended for approval – comes only two years after Live Active Leisure relocated its gym and fitness activities from Live Active Rodney to Bell’s Sports Centre as part of a major revamp.

The £750,000 investment saw Live Active Leisure open its 100+ station gym and three new fitness studios at Bell’s Sports Centre in July 2022 to much fanfare and controversy.

All 40 councillors on Perth and Kinross Council (PKC) will meet on Wednesday, May 15 to make a decision.

The transformation at Bell’s resulted in the loss of the sprung hall in the coaching hall at Bell’s as well as the termination of gym facilities at Rodney.

Just 15 months later - in October 2023 - Bell's Sports Centre suffered "catastrophic" flooding after several floodgates on the North Inch were not closed in time. Around £2 million of damage was caused to the sports centre. Neighbouring homes, businesses and leisure facilities were also flooded.

Since the October flooding, the majority of Bell’s Sports Centre has remained closed with only group fitness activities reinstated upstairs on the first floor.

In January 2024 councillors approved recommendations to replace Perth's three main leisure facilities - Bell’s Sports Centre, Dewars Centre and Perth Leisure Pool - with one single facility, PH2O.

Following an outcry from the world of curling, councillors voted for the new PH2O facility to include an ice rink. However the plans do not include indoor bowling or a purpose-built leisure pool with flumes but a 25m eight-lane traditional swimming pool with "leisure swimming". The fully costed plan for PH2O will be brought before councillors in August 2024.

In March 2023, Live Active Leisure announced plans to relocate its gym and fitness studios to Strathearn Hall at Dewars Centre. This sparked anger from Perth Indoor Bowling Club who said they received notification of the plans "after zero consultation" and are now homeless.

Live Active Leisure said the decision was "due in part, to the continuing uninsured and unmitigated risk of further flooding events".

Perth Indoor Bowling Club members in action at Dewars Centre, Perth
Handout by Perthshire Local. Pic credit: Perthshire Local. Image is of Bell's Sport Centre flooded following mass downpour over October 7-8.
Dewars Centre, Glover Street, Perth
Perth Indoor Bowling Club members in action at Dewars Centre, Perth -Credit:Perthshire Advertiser

The spokesperson said in March: "This is not a decision that our board has taken lightly, and we are fully aware of the impact on those that currently use Dewars.

"However, this will protect a vital income stream for Live Active Leisure and reinstate the key fitness services used by approximately 7000 individuals and generating circa 150,000 annual usages.

"By comparison and - as reported in the Leisure Assets Review - indoor bowling attracts 200 different users who generate around 6,000 annual usages."

Built in 1968, Bell's Sports Centre was this year granted B-listed status by Historic Environment Scotland for its rare and iconic dome. It was the largest timber supported domed structure in the UK until London's Millennium Dome was built in 1999. Due to its listed status, the council is set to explore other uses for the venue.

While Bell’s is owned by Live Active Leisure, it was built on land owned by Perth and Kinross Council. It is leased from the council through a sixty-year ground lease. PKC is sole member of Live Active Leisure and ultimately the underwriter of the organisation.

Many national sporting events have been held at Bell's Sports Centre over the years raising the Fair City's profile. However in the report going before councillors next week, they are told the events "restricted access to Bell’s for the wider community during many weekends of the year" and "also operated at a loss of around £20,000 per annum".