This is the first look at the newly refurbished £6.6million Batchwood Sports Centre, which will open to the public on Bank Holiday Monday, May 26.
Judy Murray will officially open the centre on July 8, where children will get an opportunity to play alongside the tennis coach.
The official opening, scheduled two days after Wimbledon, will also support ‘Rally For Bally’, a charity tournament to be held on June 15 in memory of tennis star Elena Baltacha, who was due to open the leisure centre. She lost her battle to liver cancer on May 4.
Batchwood was destroyed in a devastating fire in August 2011. The blaze also destroyed the golf and bowls clubhouses at Batchwood.
New pavilions for both sports have been rebuilt by St Albans District Council contractors, Willmott Dixon and are now occupied by the Batchwood Hall Golf Club and Batchwood Hall Bowling Club.
A remaining wall and entrance steps from the house of Lord Grimthorp, dating back to the 18th century, is a special reminder of the remaining ruins of the fire. Visitors can see these lasting remainders while in the tennis court and the viewing gallery.
Richard Shwe, head of community services at the council, said: “We are taking the old with the new.”
While Mandy Franks and Liz Jones, Batchwood Tennis Academy directors described the opening of the sports centre “like coming home”.
Mandy explained: “We remember the first opening of Batchwood in 1988 and to be honest we never thought we would be here opening it again. It's a huge relief.
“On the day of the fire we had to get 1,500 users in to 24 coaches. It has been a tough few years, but we just had to carry on fighting and keep spirits up to ensure Batchwood would be rebuilt.
“Huge thanks has to go to Julian Daly and Richard Shwe. Julian has been instrumental- I remember seeing Julian on the day of the fire and he said “Mandy don’t worry, we will have this centre open again and even better than before.
“Everyone is really excited for the opening- It’s like coming home. Now we can really grow and put our new plans in for new visions. ”
Since the fire Mandy and Liz have continued to coach their members from various locations including, Verulamium Park, London Colney, Rothamsted Park, Harpenden Sports Centre, Harpenden Tennis Club, St Albans Tennis Club and even organised Monday morning meetings to keep team spirits up at Simmons in Marshalswick.
The new Batchwood Sports Centre boasts a range of state-of-the-art facilities, which will be managed on behalf of the council by 1Life, who also manage Harpenden Sports Centre, Harpenden Pool, London Colney Adventure World, the Alban Arena, Harpenden Public Halls and Abbey View.
There is a 48-station gym, a strength and conditioning suite, two refurbished squash courts, six brand new indoor tennis courts, a viewing gallery, three outdoor courts, two mini tennis courts and a group exercise studio.
There is also a multi-purpose function bar, a coffee bar, a special judo dojo training facility and a education room, which is a LTA regional coaching and education centre of excellence. Adjacent to the sports centre is a bowls green and the Batchwood 18-hole Golf Course, grass practice area and 9-hole putting green.
Rachel Shelton from 1Life said they hope to attract 15,000 users annually, appealing to professionals, stay at home mothers, students, over 50s and young children to ensure the facility is a “great family destination”.
The sports centre has been funded using a combination of grants from sports organisations, insurance funds and the Council’s Leisure Capital Budget. The Lawn Tennis Association and Sport England, have also invested £1.1 million in to the project.
Batchwood will be opened by The Mayor of St Albans, Annie Brewster, at 12pm on Bank Holiday Monday. Residents will then be able to try out the new facilities first hand, by playing tennis, bowls and using the gym from 12pm.
There will also be taster sessions for group exercise classes, including Body Pump, Body Attack and Street Dance from 1pm.