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A positive impact on members, both old and new

With a goal to enhance their scholarship and professional services, the University of Kent devised a strategy to expand and modernise facilities. Sport was certainly no exception.

Kent Sport had been managing sports facilities at the University of Kent since their initial multi-use sports hall was constructed back in the 6o’s. But, with student numbers growing, the demand for sports space had dramatically increased.

Not only was the existing facility needed for all sports, it was block booked for six weeks at a time during exam season, leaving teams and players frustrated.

The conclusion? Facilities were quickly earmarked for expansion.

The project was significant. Particularly in demand was indoor space for tennis and netball—existing facilities for these sports were outdoors and, given the relentless wet weather the previous year, it was decided members should be offered a dedicated centre for tennis and netball.

Despite sport-specific specialisation, the new facility would also need the versatility to accommodate other sports during exam season, and whenever the main facility was out of action.

So, the brief was decided. Kent Sport did their research and soon found that by opting for a clear span tensile membrane structure, they would get far more for their money in comparison to a traditional build.

Several manufacturers were contacted. Quotes and designs were scrutinised to ensure they gave best value for money, within budget without compromising on quality.

After careful scrutiny, a Challenger™ facility by Lancashire-based family firm Collinson was chosen. Their proven track record in designing and delivering quality sports facilities convinced Kent Sport that a Collinson facility was the high quality product they needed.

With everything in place, a loan from the University of Kent was secured and build could commence.

The Challenger sports structure system is based on a clear span, steel superstructure which requires minimal foundations and can be quickly erected. This modular system is renowned for its efficiency, consisting of a robust steel framework covered with a high quality tensioned PVC membrane.

The university opted for a white fabric which allows light to permeate the building, flooding the courts with natural light and giving the effect of playing outdoors, without the weather implications.

On external walls they opted for a striking colour block effect, incorporating the University and Kent Sport’s logos in an attractive and recognisable design.

Collinson acted as principal contractor for the design and build of the 52m x 35m facility. Internally it comprises three courts marked and kitted out for both games, energy efficient lighting, and ventilation systems.

One end of the facility boasts a glazed screen with sliding doors, creating a light and airy playing environment which persists even when the doors are closed. Spanning almost the full width of the facility, when the weather is good the doors can be opened to give access to the three external courts also marked out for tennis and netball.

As Ben Trott, Assistant Director of Operations at Kent Sport, explained, “We are in no doubt that the improvement gained from the build of the tennis and netball facility will have a positive impact on our membership levels.”

True indeed, the facility opened in June 2013 and is already proving to be a huge hit with existing members.

The facility is part of a £4.8 Million investment into Kent Sport which also includes a new fitness suite, an additional multi-purpose sports hall and two dance and fitness classes. All facilities are open for use by staff, students, and the public.

Ben added: “Collinson have been a pleasure to work with. Professional from start to finish, with excellent communication and collaboration with the University and Kent Sport.”  

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