Max Whitlock to open Essex University's world-class sports arena

16 January 2018

THE launch of Essex University’s £11 million sports arena will breathe new life into community and top-level sport.

Olympic gymnast Max Whitlock and University Chancellor John Bercow are set to be the guests of honour at the official ribbon cutting at the Essex Sport Arena which is at the Wivenhoe campus in Colchester.

Residents are invited to attend a number of drop-in activities including walking netball and football, family fitness classes and children’s sports competitions.

Parents will also get a first look at the Max Whitlock Gymnastics school while eight primary schools compete in basketball matches which have been sponsored by Colchester’s Sportsafe UK.

Dave Parry, head of sport at the university, said: “It’s super exciting.

“This has been five years in the making including a year for the construction.

“In that time the university has grown quite rapidly and equally, Colchester is a growing town so I think it’s the right time.”

Bolstering community engagement through sport is one of the department’s objectives and it will also address the misconception of the facilities being for students only.

Mr Parry explained the space will be shared between the student demand, external clubs and recreational bookings.

He said: “We very much see our facilities as helping to meet the borough’s needs and contributing towards the shortfall of sports hall space.

“There are current opportunities for members of the public to have a gym membership or pay and play to use our facilities.

“The issue was always capacity.

“The university is growing so gradually internal demand has squeezed out the availability to offer space to other users but our increased capacity means we will be an active contributor to the sports facilities of the borough.”

Talented athletes are expected to gravitate towards the university’s performance sport programme as a result and Mr Parry also has ambitious plans for the arena.

He said: “The Herts Mavericks netball team is staging three of this season’s fixtures out of our new facility next month and in June, for example.

“Netball is massive now in terms of being a spectator sport.

“At their current venue they sell 1,000 tickets but the team is desperate for a bigger venue and we will have over 1,600 seats.

“The department has had enquiries from other sports like basketball and we have a GB senior men’s training camp coming to the facility in February.

“If that level of sport is played here, it will only attract more students to Essex.”

Anyone wanting to see the new facilities can attend the launch on Saturday, January 27 between 10am and 3pm.