Crystal Palace renovation plans announced by the Mayor of London
Above: National Sports Centre and Crystal Palace Transmitting Station
(By Eagleash - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28353921)
Plans to repair the athletics track and improve the indoor facilities at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre (NSC) during the next year have been announced by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
Opened in 1964, the centre comprises an athletics stadium, swimming and diving pools, together with a gym and indoor and outdoor sports facilities.
The historic venue has previously hosted international swimming, diving, athletics meetings and motor-racing and was also the site of the first Women’s FA Cup final – but is now in need of major investment and refurbishment.
The Mayor has already committed to comprehensively redeveloping the site, including a complete rebuild of the swimming pools’ structure and improved sporting facilities. He has now appointed a project director with experience of redeveloping sporting venues and his team is currently working with consultants and architects to devise long-term proposals for the future of the centre. This includes reviewing the scale of the athletics stadium with the Mayor being clear that this must be underpinned by a viable business plan.
However, Sadiq has today warned that the level of redevelopment and repair work required is significant and extremely complex and is likely to take five years to complete.
In the meantime, Sadiq is today confirming a number of early improvements that will be made in the next year while plans for the long term are developed. This includes:
Repairing the athletics track and installing replacement floodlighting
Reopening the climbing walls in the indoor centre
Upgrading the fitness gym
Plans are also being considered to open up a pop-up activation such as a children's activity centre.
Large parts of the centre, including the 25 metre and teaching swimming pools, the athletics facilities, the indoor sports hall and gym and the outside courts are still available for use and it is intended that they will remain open for as long as possible during the longer-term redevelopment. Sadiq hopes that a planning application for the comprehensive redevelopment of the centre will be brought forward by April 2024 and that a contractor will be able to start work in 2025. As the 60-year-old building that houses the swimming pools and indoor facilities is Grade II* listed, it needs to be redeveloped sensitively, respecting its historic and architectural significance. Investigations have shown that maintenance alone will not solve the challenges facing the building, and a larger refurbishment project is required. Hugh Brasher, Event Director of London Marathon Events, said: “For more than four decades, the famous Crystal Palace stadium hosted some of the greatest international athletics events staged in the UK in front of sellout crowds and the track is part of an extensive sports complex with a wonderful heritage. ‘The Mayor’s commitment to the redevelopment of the Crystal Palace site is fantastic news for athletics, aquatics and many other sports. London Marathon Events and the London Marathon Foundation are keen to support this visionary future to restore Crystal Palace as a much-needed sporting and community facility.” Ellie Reeves MP- Labour Member of Parliament for Lewisham West and Penge, said: “The National Sports Centre is much loved by our community. Everyone has their own story to tell whether it was learning to swim there, diving off the diving board or watching world class athletics in the stadium. I am really pleased that Sadiq Khan has announced that these improvements to our centre will be made imminently, I know they will make a great deal of difference to local people and demonstrate that the Mayor is serious about restoring our sports centre. I also hope we can get the rest of the centre, including the pools, redeveloped as soon as possible, so that we can once again benefit from world class provision.” Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, said: “We are delighted to hear of the long-term vision to improve Crystal Palace National Sports Centre. Our facilities team has worked closely with GLA to support them on the investment and refurbishment of what is an integral facility for our strategic goal of ensuring access to long course 50m pools. We look forward to continuing this collaborative work and seeing Crystal Palace restored to its former glory.” Councillor Yvonne Bear, Executive Councillor for Renewal, Recreation and Housing said: “It comes as long overdue very good news to discover that plans to refurbish the National Sports Centre are finally coming forward, which has been neglected for far too long. These long term refurbishments will hopefully bring the centre and wider site back to a standard fit for its remarkable past. The history of this site demands nothing less. “This should also coincide with our comprehensive Regeneration Plan for the surrounding park that is making good progress, with the Trust soon to take over the park’s management. The park’s illustrious history is being protected as part of this plan, alongside further improvements such as to green spaces. We will look carefully at plans for the NSC when further details come forward, noting the five year timescale for these complex proposals.” Martin Tempia, Co-Chair, Crystal Palace Park Trust, said: “This is great news. We welcome the Mayor’s announcement of the improvement programme and support his exciting vision to restore and re-establish the NSC as a major sports venue and community facility. We look forward to working with him on the regeneration of Crystal Palace Park.” Peter Bundey, CEO of GLL the charitable social enterprise that operates Crystal Palace National Sports Centre said: “We wholeheartedly welcome today’s announcement that there will be imminent improvements to the athletics track, climbing wall and gym at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre. These works will help us ensure that the Centre remains a thriving sports facility at the heart of the local community and will enable us to expand and improve our programming and the range of activities we can offer.”