A tour of the new Gunnersbury Park Sports Hub

Gunnersbury Park Sports Hub is due to open its doors on 12 April. Located in the middle of Gunnersbury Park, the brand new sports venue includes a large 100+ station gym, two group exercise studios with automated virtual classes and a large sports hall offering competition standard facilities for a variety of sports such as handball, futsal and volleyball, as well as many others. There is no pool or personal training facilities.

Outdoor pitches are available for hire now, with eight tennis courts, two full size all-weather pitches and 10 grass pitches for football, rugby and cricket. Once all facilities are open, the Hub will offer a broad variety of indoor and outdoor sporting activities, lessons and courses.

Membership for all ages is £32.95 per month, which is low compared to some of Chiswick’s other fitness centres. A 12 month commitment to membership at Virgin Active works out at £99.99 per month, whereas Hogarth Club memberships can start at £65.00 per month but go higher depending on the plan you sign up to. Both Virgin Active and Hogarth club have extra facilities and amenities compared to the Hub.

Alex Norris, the Assistant Manager of Gunnersbury Park Sports Hub, gave The Chiswick Calendar’s reporter Matt Smith a guided tour of the new facility prior to its grand opening.

Images above: the spin studio (left), 

Spin studio

The spin studio is the room directly ahead of the entrance as you walk into the Hub and at the entrance to the room are two vending machines.

“This is the spin room”, said Alex, “which is going to be a mix of virtual classes and fitness instructor-led classes. At the moment we’re not allowed to do the fitness instructor-led classes because of COVID, so it’s just going to be virtual from when we open. And then, I believe, from 17 May they will be instructor-led.”

The spin studio has multi-coloured lights which change to the beat of the music during classes. There’s also an interactive light on each of the spin bikes too, which lights up in five different colours, each of which tell the instructor what level you’re working at. The difficulty is synced to your own personal fitness level, something which is determined in a test you take before the class.

Images above: the Hub’s sports hall with the small balcony visible (left), one of the Hub’s 18 changing rooms (right).

Sports hall and changing rooms

The sports hall is 1000 square metres and you’ll be able to play a multitude of sports in the 5-court sports hall. There’s handball, volleyball, 5-aside football, futsal, basketball and badminton space. The state of the art sports hall will be home to important sports organisations in the local area, such as Brentford Football Club, University of West London, International School of London, Actonians Sports Club, Polonia Volleyball Club and West London Eagles Handball Club.

“Basically you can do a lot in the sports hall. We have a lot of bookings already from clubs, we’ve got London Titans Wheelchair Basketball Club, Actionians Sports Club, International School of London will be doing PE lessons in here as they don’t have sports facilities” said Alex.

Also in the sports hall is a small balcony area which oversees the entire hall. There’s one bench and more locker space parallel to the glass barrier balcony. If you were so inclined, the area could be used to watch any games being played in the hall, but since it is only a small area which doubles up as locker space it’s not likely many spectators will be able to gather there.

There’s 18 changing rooms in total, with different rooms assigned for users of both the indoor and outdoor facilities, including a changing room for referees and a first aid area. A set of doors leads directly outside from the changing rooms to prevent players with muddy boots from walking through the reception area.

Images above: one of the aerobics studios (left), the Education Room – which is currently being used as an overflow gym 

Aerobics studios and Education Room

Classes in the aerobics studios, similar to the spin room, will start off as virtual classes on 12 April, that are not instructor led. The studios also have integrated music systems and Wexer Virtual Fitness software features dozens of classes on a weekly basis.

Wexer’s website states: “Our technology creates a bridge between the digital and physical worlds, enhancing the customer journey by delivering a seamless, premium exercise experience that meets people’s needs wherever they may be – in your facilities or elsewhere.”

A timetable of classes will set up for the two studios and members will be able to come and select a class to sign up by interacting with a monitor outside of the studio’s doors.

Moving upstairs, we come to the Education Room, which is meant to be an area where courses and small conferences are held, complete a with a large retractable white board for presentations. Currently though the room is being used as an overflow gym, so the equipment in the main gym room can be spaced out properly. Only after social distancing restrictions are lifted will the education room be used for its intended purpose.

Image above: the free weights area (left), some of the 100 stations present in the main gym room (centre), a row of Life Fitness Treadmills (right).

Main gym area

The main gym area is a fully equipped, 100 station room which has a large range of Life Fitness and Escape Fitness equipment including cardiovascular machines, resistance and free weight area. There’s a one way system signs on the floor as well as human-sized social yellow distancing signs. Everything is brand new and very clean.

“It’s all Life Fitness equipment which is quite high end, we’re currently piloting it for our company whereas we would normally use Techno Gym equipment but in this branch we’ll be using Life Fitness to see how it goes. I’ve used it and it is really good” Alex said.

“We advise our members to clean the equipment before and after use. But that’s as well as staff going around and cleaning too. We also advise them to bring their own towels as well to wipe sweat off.”

Images above: the astro-turf area, one of the football pitches in-use on 31 March with a rugby pitch in the background

Outdoor facilities 

The outdoor facilities are the only areas open to the public at the moment. There are floodlit and enclosed full-size artificial grass pitches. There is also a dedicated spectator area. The pitches have additional markings for five, seven, and nine-aside games. Games can be booked via Play Football.

South of the astro-turf pitches there’s six adult grass football pitches, and three junior grass football pitches which are available to hire to sports clubs or teams to play and train.

Further south there is a full size rugby pitch, with posts and post protectors. Gunnersbury Park Sports Hub hopes to continue on the rugby tradition which has long been ‘a strong part of west London’s history.’

North of the astro-turf are three cricket ovals which will come into their own in the summer months. The purpose built cricket squares will be ‘state of the art’ offering a ‘solid and fast’ bowling surface, offset against the backdrop of Gunnersbury Park.

Finally there’s also eight brand new floodlit, hard surfaced, tennis courts suitable for all conditions, and playing abilities. Onsite tennis coaches are available too, as well as courts for hire.

Image above: a plaque in the reception area featuring all of the organisations which have funded or been involved with the opening of the Hub, outside the Hub whilst it was still under construction

Ownership and management

The premises is being ran by GLL, which was established in 1993. GLL is the largest UK-based charitable social enterprise delivering leisure, health and community services. The consumer-facing side of the company operates under the brand ‘Better’. GLL operates over 200 public sports and leisure facilities around the UK.

There’s a total of four management staff including Alex, with Rob Ansell being the General Manager. There’s six full-time fitness instructors, concierges and general assistants.

The project received funding from several local investors, including Ealing and Hounslow councils, University of West London, Brentford Football Club Community Sports Trust, the International School of London as well as many others.

Because the building is in the middle of Gunnersbury Park, which is split across two boroughs, the building is essentially owned by both Ealing and Hounslow Councils. At the moment, due to the pandemic, the Councils are taking control of the building and GLL are operating the centre on their behalf. But eventually it will be the responsibility of the Gunnersbury CIC who operate the park. GLL would then operate the Sports Hub on behalf of the CIC.

If you would like any more information about the Hub or would like to become a member, follow the link below:

better.org.uk/leisure-centre/london/gunnersbury-park/gunnersbury-park-sports

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Fitness and Health – The Hogarth Club

See also: New sport Airball launched in Chiswick

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