Sandwell Commonwealth Games aquatics centre 'still on budget' despite costs rise

Sandwell Council denied its flagship Commonwealth Games Aquatic Centre is over budget after councillors agreed to sign a £73 million deal which will allow construction to begin in the new year.

An artist's impression of the centre
An artist's impression of the centre

Cabinet members last Thursday backed a recommendation to sign a contract with Wates Construction Ltd to complete the sports venue ahead of the international event’s opening ceremony in July 2022.

When first announced in 2018, the estimated cost was £60 million.

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But Chris Jones, the centre’s project director, told councillors the budget for the centre on Londonderry Fields in Smethwick had not overrun.

He said: “I’d like to reassure members that the project is being delivered within the overall funding package.

"The total budget including contingency has always been £75 million.

“This includes a 20 per cent contingency which is the industry standard.”

Work to clear the site for the Sandwell Aquatics Centre is under way on the playing fields off Londonderry Lane, Smethwick

He added: “We have been asked to do further works by the [Commonwealth Games] organising committee which has been funded accordingly.

“This has increased the budget to £76 million.”

He added that £48.7 million was being paid by outside partners while the remaining £28 million would be provided by the council.

Sandwell has defended its contribution saying the aquatic centre will replace ageing leisure facilities while giving the borough an international standard venue it could never afford otherwise.

Work to clear the site for the Sandwell Aquatics Centre is under way on the playing fields off Londonderry Lane, Smethwick

The deal will see the building of a 50-metre Olympic-sized competition swimming pool with a separate diving area and 1,000 permanent spectator seats with additional seating during the games.

The main pool will be four times the size of a normal swimming facility.

A report to cabinet members added: “The venue will also boast a dry-dive facility, 108-station gym, 25-station ladies-only gym, three activity studios, eight-court sports hall, indoor cycling studio, sauna/steam room and café.”

The contract with the Wates Construction is expected to be signed on November 26 with work beginning in January.

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