Plans to turn Swindon into the leisure magnet for the south of England were revealed in November when Moirai capital investments provided more outline details of their proposals to spend £65 million on refurbished and new facilities at North Star.
Central to the project is the renewal of the 35 year old Oasis Leisure Centre which will be complemented by an indoor ski slope and fun snow play area, a multi-purpose concert, event and sports arena capable of seating 7,500, shops, restaurants and a hotel. It’s predicted that they will attract 4 million visits annually.
Swindon Council handed over the Oasis to Moirai to redevelop in June. The iconic dome will be retained and renewed, a 100 station gym installed where the indoor bowls area used to be and the entrance and changing areas improved.
On the old Clares factory site, opposite the Oasis, the indoor snow facilities using the latest snow making technology, will incorporate a 200 metre slope, a shorter training slope and a snowball throwing area.
The arena will be the largest in the south outside London, big enough to attract some of the bigger touring acts, and capable of accommodating large exhibitions and sports events. The existing vehicle through route will be closed so that a pedestrian plaza can be created between the main facilities.
A value hotel is proposed behind the Oasis so that visitors can stay after a day of fun, or a concert, as well as a 10 pin bowling centre. Some form of accommodation, whether apartments or student flats, is also being considered.
To provide for the huge influx of visitors three multi-storey car parks are planned, whilst Swindon Council is looking at greatly improved pedestrian routes over the railway from the town centre. It has already committed £10m to rebuilding Bruce Street Bridges roundabouts to improve traffic flow on Great Western Way.
Above, Martin Barber, Moirai capital investments, Coun Garry Perkins, children’s services, and Coun Keith Williams, cabinet member for leisure & transport with a model of the Oasis site. Below, Martin Barber, chairman of the Moirai board. Bottom: Peter Holmes
Moirai was set up by a group of investors led by chairman of the board Martin Barber who said he had been looking for a project. “I had retired from companies in the UK and the USA and having been responsible for X-scape in Milton Keynes, Castleford and Braehead, Scotland, I was looking for a site in the south to get involved with.
“Swindon Council were interested in working with us and it’s been a very productive relationship. This project is very exciting and will put Swindon once again at the forefront for leisure.”
Fellow Moirai partner Peter Holmes said: “When it opened in the 1970s the Oasis was one of the first in Britain to create the concept of a leisure destination. We are very pleased that Moirai were chosen by Swindon Council to recreate that vision of the town as a major attraction.
“Situated between the O2 Arena, the NEC and the Cardiff Millennium Centre, Swindon is the perfect location for what we propose.Many visitors to the new development will want to explore what else Swindon and its surrounds offer. The economic benefits to the town are going to be huge.”
However councillors representing wards close to the Oasis are seeking assurances that streets in their areas will be protected from the huge volume of traffic that will come into the town.
Simon Jackson, chief executive of town centre management company InSwindon, said if a free flow of people between the town centre and North Star can be created, he thought Swindon would become a nationally recognised destination.
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