PRSA: Report lays bare options for the future of the facility

PRSA athletics ground / Rugby club
PRSA athletics ground / Rugby club

Councillors are to look into three options on how to manage the Princess Royal Sports Arena at a committee meeting today (Wednesday).

A report on Leisure, Health and Wellbeing will outline the options to councillors on the environment and performance committee.

The arena is currently managed by the Boston Sports Initiative (BSI), however that organisation has over recent years contracted in other organisations to run aspects of the site including 1Life.

The report says: “The facility has cost a greater amount to operate than was originally envisaged when the project commenced, although still remains a low cost sports facility.

“This has been a disappointment to the council and is perhaps due to an over optimistic set of project assumptions, strains to governance arrangements and the relationships between the parties, with some resulting reputational damage.”

However, it said usage numbers, which saw 15,000 predicted swimmers and 1,380 gym members in 2014/15, and 15,000 and 1,270 in 2013/14, indicate a ‘significant contribution to the health and wellbeing needs of the borough at a relatively low cost’.

The preferred option by council officers is to allow BSI to conclude its work with 1Life and to negotiate with the latter to create a full-term lease.

The hope is to complete this arrangement, which would include repairing and insuring contractual agreements, by early 2015/16, and allow BSI to dissolve.

Other options include working with other organisations, including the new East Lindsey trust Magna Vitae, which runs the Embassy Centre, and Boston Borough Council managing the facility itself - something officers feel would come with ‘further challenges’.

There is a final option to close the facility, however, the report states: “It is not considered feasible on the basis of cost and the low cost contribution the facility makes towards the health and wellbeing of the borough.”

As reported last week the council hopes to reverse its fortunes with the facility with part of a £1.4 million investment into its leisure services - including £560,000 on energy efficiency measures and £840,000 on getting the PRSA up to scratch to be leased out.

It is hoped the joint income from the energy measures at the PRSA and Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre will bring in £1.5 million to the council over the next 10 years.

The proposed spend will take the total projected capital cost of the PRSA to the taxpayer up to £7,141,258.

FACTFILE: A look through the archives at early years of PRSA

In this section, we look back at some of the stories and comments we’ve covered in the development of the PRSA...

○During the early days, the arena was supported by a number of celebrities, sports stars and dignitaries. In 2000, England rugby player Dean Richard joined a delegation heading to London to promote the facilities. Mr Richards called it an ‘exciting project’ and hailing the facilities as ranking ‘right up their with the best’. TV chef Delia Smith also originally supported the project but later withdrew - she was replaced by Geoff Capes and Radio 4’s Sue MacGregor.

○Work started on the Stadium in August 2002. The project was reported to have been four years in the making and was hailed a ‘world first’ stadium for both able-bodied and disabled athletes. Delays on the project were put down to fundraising

issues .

Also in April 2002, the ‘Dabsi’ as it was then known, was reported to have faced competition from Stoke Mandeville’s Guttman Centre. Officials reassured residents that the arena would still be a ‘world first’.

○In 2003, the now-renamed PRSA was given a £1.3 million loan from tax payers’ money after fundraising fell short - it was not the first payout to the project and would not be the last.

○During a tour and official opening in 2003, Princess Anne called the centre ‘unique’ and ‘exciting’.

○In October 2004, members of the Boston and District Athletic Club voted unanimously to ‘stay away’ from the PRSA.

○In 2005 two members of its management resigned.