Closure of Bowlee Sports Centre and St Mary’s artificial turf pitch

Date published: 23 September 2020

Link4Life, the charity managing leisure and cultural venues in the borough on behalf of the council, has announced the closure of Bowlee Park Sports Centre and St Mary’s artificial turf pitch (ATP). Both facilities closed in March 2020 due to Covid-19 and have been unable to re-open due to the operating restrictions required to provide a covid secure environment. The layout of the sports centre, which includes narrow corridors, means that it is not possible to implement social distancing measures safely throughout the whole centre.

Health and fitness members at Bowlee Park Sports Centre are being contacted by Link4Life staff to offer them access to the facilities at Middleton Arena as an alternative.

The closure of these facilities has been the result of a review by Link4Life of its service provision, as part of Rochdale Borough Council’s strategic review and ongoing financial pressures. The review has focussed on areas of business with declining uptake or where sustainability, in financial terms, over the next one to three years would be most challenging, whilst protecting areas where there was increasing demand on services.

Taking into account the restrictions of Covid-19 on the future operation of the centre, the overall building condition, usage levels and the high operating costs, Link4Life has concluded that it is no longer viable for it, as a charity, to be the leisure operator of Bowlee Sports Centre and St Mary’s ATP.  

The statement issued by Link4Life states that the venues will now be handed back to Rochdale Borough Council who 'will consider alternative options for the facilities with the goal of ensuring the centre can be utilised by the community in the future albeit potentially for a different use'.


The artificial turf pitch at St Mary's RC Primary School on Wood Street
The artificial turf pitch at St Mary's RC Primary School on Wood Street


Link4Life says that the Indoor Sports Built Facilities Strategy adopted by the council in July 2020, highlighted Bowlee Park Sport Centre as being poorly performing in terms of income, visitor numbers and efficiency. It showed that the sports centre is dated and not to the standards of modern leisure facilities with increasing maintenance and operating costs making the centre financially unviable. St Mary’s ATP has seen a significant reduction in the number of bookings as the provision of ATP’s across the borough has increased in recent years and the pitch requires significant investment to update the playing surface which is unsustainable for Link4Life as a charity.

Andy King, CEO of Link4Life, stated “It is with sadness that Link4Life will no longer manage Bowlee Park Sports Centre and St Mary’s ATP.  With ongoing financial pressures, the outcomes of the Indoor Sports Built Facilities Strategy and the investment required to the pitch at St Mary’s, it is not viable for Link4Life to continue the management of either venue. 

"As the sports centre has been unable to re-open due to social distancing measures, we contacted all health and fitness members to provide access to Middleton Arena so that they could return to exercise and this will continue so that there is minimal disruption to their membership. Our team are currently in the process of contacting all those who booked activities to provide refunds for any paid bookings and to provide assistance in finding alternative provision where we are able to.”

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