The new investment created by the Commonwealth Games gave Manchester a unique opportunity to redevelop its existing sporting amenities and fund the building of new top class venues such as the National Squash Centre at Eastlands. These improvements have helped the city to attract more national and international sports events and upgrade the facilities available to its sportsmen and women. Yet this is only a small part of the sporting legacy of the Games. Money has been invested in schools and community programmes across the region and a number of sporting initiatives have also been set up in the deprived East Manchester region of the city.
New Stadiums and Venues
Sportcity in East Manchester was intended to be the centrepiece of the Commonwealth Games so naturally many of the major new facilities were built there. The support of Sport England was crucial in getting these projects off the ground as they contributed £92 million towards the final cost of the complex. They also provided much of the funding for the construction and redevelopment of the other Games venues across Greater Manchester, investing £165 million in total. For an overview of Sport England’s contribution to the Commonwealth Games click here . A list of city’s new sports facilities can be found below:
• The City of Manchester Stadium – Originally a 38,000 seater athletics stadium, it was converted into a football ground after the Commonwealth Games. It is now the home of Manchester City FC and has an increased capacity of 48,000.
• The Regional Athletics Arena – A £3.5m 6,000 seater stadium constructed around the Commonwealth Games warm up track and training area. The arena will be used for domestic and international athletics meetings. The stadium is also the base for the famous Sale Harriers club. Click here to download the City of Manchester Athletics: The Future brochure (PDF file).
• The National Squash Centre – it has seven squash courts and world class facilities. The centre is the new home of England Squash, the sport’s national governing body.
• The Manchester Tennis Centre – consisting of 6 indoor courts, six outdoor courts and a junior court.
In Greater Manchester:
• A £32 million Aquatics Centre in Manchester city centre – the only swimming complex in the UK to have two 50 metre pools. Also the regional high performance centre for elite swimmers.
• Bolton Arena, comprising of indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a 400 metre athletics track, plus football, basketball and netball pitches. The arena is the Lawn Tennis Associations North West Regional Tennis Centre. Its Sports Science and Performance Unit has state of the art sports science and sports performance testing facilities.
• The redeveloped Belle Vue Leisure Centre, east of the city centre. This facility boasts 2 water based hockey pitches, 8 badminton courts and a cricket academy. It has also been designated as the Regional Performance Centre for both hockey and badminton. Both the girls and boys Under 16’s and Under 18’s England hockey squads use Belle Vue as their training base.
• A £1millon bowling complex has been built at Heaton Park in North Manchester. The park has four top grade flat greens. The venue has been allocated national status by the English Bowls Association and is the home of the Manchester Commonwealth Bowling Club.
The new venues have paved the way to bring yet more sporting events to Greater Manchester. Some of the events held at these venues in the months following the Commonwealth Games are detailed below.
• Swimming: The Aquatics Centre hosted the Amateur Swimming Association Long Course Championships in July 2003.
• Tennis: The National Tennis Championships were held at Bolton Arena in 2002 and 2003.
• Squash: The National Squash Championships took place at the National Squash Centre in February 2003.
• Water Polo: The Great Britain Water Polo Championships were held at the Aquatics Centre in February 2003.
• Triathlon: The first Triathlon World Cup event to be held in the UK took place at Salford Quays ( the venue for the Commonwealth Games Triathlon ) in July 2003.
• Women’s Hockey: A 3 match series between England and Germany was staged at Belle Vue in the summer of 2003.
• Bowling: The regional finals of the prestigious National Club Top Fours Competition were held at Heaton Park in August 2003.
These were not the only major sporting events to grace Manchester in 2003. The Champions’ League Final was staged at Old Trafford in May, the ISBA European Blind Championships took place at the Velodrome in July; the Cycling National Track Championships were held at the same venue in August and the World Track Masters Cycling Championship followed a month later. In September Old Trafford staged a Euro 2004 qualifier between England and Liechtenstein and in October it was the venue for the Rugby League’s Super League Grand Final.
The Commonwealth Games has helped Manchester cement it’s reputation as a city capable of hosting major sporting events, and with all its new facilities now in place, the city seems certain to remain a prominent player on the world sporting stage.
Manchester’s Games venues continue to go from strength to strength in 2004. This years events include:
• Football: The FA Summer Tournament at the City of Manchester Stadium- England’s pre Euro 2004 warm up featuring fixtures against Japan and Iceland.
• Athletics: The AAA Championships and Olympic Trials at the Regional Athletics Arena.
• Rugby League: Great Britain take on Australia as part of the inaugural Tri-nations series in the first rugby league game ever to be held at the City of Manchester Stadium.
• Swimming: The ASA Long Course Championships at the Manchester Aquatics Centre.
• Triathlon: The ITU World Cup returns to Salford Quays.
• Cycling: A round of the ASDA Elite Men’s Circuit Race at Horwich, venue for the Mountain Bike and Road Racing events at the Commonwealth Games.
• Hockey: A Men’s Under 21’s International Tournament featuring England, Scotland and Canada at Belle Vue.
• Athletics: The Great Manchester Run , a long distance mass participation race around the City Centre and Salford Quays.
• Bowling: The regional finals of the prestigious National Club Top Fours Competition are being held at Heaton Park for the second year running.
In July 2004 Manchester City Council announced that it had signed an agreement to secure the future of the Great Manchester Run until 2009. The idea for this 10km race was first put forward in the wake of the phenomenal success of the Games, with the original intention that the city would to commit to the event for three years.
However the Run proved to be extremely popular, attracting 10,000 participants in its first year (2003), and 16,000 in 2004, leading the Council to revise their plans and extend the duration of their agreement with race organisers Nova. Olympic medallist Brendan Foster, now chair of Nova, is confident that the entry for future races could top the 20,000 mark, consolidating its position as the second largest event of its kind in the country.
School and Youth Initiatives
The development of the next generation of athletes, to be achieved by working through local schools and providing greater access to coaching, is one of the most important elements of the Games sporting legacy. These are some of the related projects that are underway:
• The City Council Sports Development Team has created an ‘in school programme’ to provide children with coaching equipment and free transport. So far 95 primary schools have signed up for the scheme.
• The Youth Sports Trust is running a programme called ‘TOP Link’. This has already enabled 75,000 primary school children to participate in over 750 events.
• 4,456 young people took part in the 2002 school holiday programmes held at Belle Vue Hockey Centre, the Indoor Athletics Centre and The National Tennis Centre.
• A coaching programme for juniors has been established at the National Tennis Centre.
• Bolton Arena’s Sport Education Theatre (SET) now provides resources for sports education and performance development for schools and colleges.
• The National Squash Centre has a city-wide programme to introduce 6000 school children to the sport each year.
Sport England and the City Council sought to use the Games as a catalyst to enhance coaching facilities, encourage greater participation in sport and improve the performance of Britain’s sportsmen and women. Sportcity is now the north west base of the English Institute of Sport, a nationwide network of training facilities and support services.
As part of a more general commitment to provide coaching for schoolchildren, young sportsmen and local residents, the Sportcity complex presently employs full time tennis, athletics and squash development officers and two full time community sports development officers.
It is estimated that Manchester’s new facilities will provide 31,500 places on sports development courses per year. Below are some examples of the initiatives that have already been put into action.
• Full time tennis, athletics and squash development officers are employed at Sportcity. The complex also has two full time community sports development officers.
• Sportcity provides coach education and training courses for teachers, school staff and the members of the local community.
• The National Squash Centre is running sports development programmes with beginners and squad training every week for juniors and adults.
• Bolton Arena provides a tennis coaching programme for players at every level of ability.
• Between September 2002 and June 2003 9,396 people took part in coaching sessions at Belle Vue and the National Squash Centre. A further 2,556 people are estimated to have attended coaching sessions at the National Tennis Centre. The centre has introduced a coaching programme for juniors and adults to encourage Manchester residents to take up the sport.
• In June 2004 Manchester Tennis Centre held a free master class for members of the local community as part of the LTA’s nationwide Play Tennis campaign. The event featured a series of competitive games and provided the chance for youngsters to get expert guidance from experienced coaches. The day was aimed at all the family with mini tennis available for those aged 4 – 9 and full court tennis for adults and teenagers.
The City Council wanted to leave a sporting legacy that would benefit the whole community, and believed the best way of achieving this was to allow the public extensive access to the new sports venues. For this reason the local community are, event permitting, able to make use of all the facilities at Sportcity every day of the year. The one exception to this is the City of Manchester Stadium, although plans are being developed to devote 100 days per year to community usage, probably involving events such as school football tournaments and adult education programmes.
Venues outside Sportscity have also been made accessible to the general public. It is therefore perfectly possible to go cycling at the Manchester Velodrome, swim in the Aquatics Centre, play tennis at Bolton Arena, or book a hockey pitch at Belle Vue.
Sport and Regeneration in East Manchester
The East Manchester area has been singled out for special attention as part of a wider programme of economic regeneration. A number of schemes have been introduced to upgrade local sports facilities and provide activities and training for local residents. Some examples are listed below:
• Improved new sports areas in the playgrounds of 12 local primary schools.
• Upgraded floodlighting of sports area in 2 local schools.
• Modern outdoor games and sports areas introduced in 7 local parks.
• 121 ‘after school’ sports clubs established in 16 schools with an estimated attendance of 74,450 per annum.
• 16 local schools currently using Sportcity facilities under the School Sport co-ordinator project.
• School holiday programmes introduced and attended by 100 children per day.
• New sports clubs founded (eg. Eastland Citizens FC, East Manchester Tennis Club, and Manchester Basketball Club.)
• 35 new community sessions established at Sport city and run by qualified coaches.
• 210 local residents trained as sports coaches.
• Regular sports activities held during school holidays at local parks and venues.
• Activity Bus established to take residents to Sportcity, leisure centres, parks and the Aquatics centre. The bus has more than 800 regular users.