Rivermead - new leisure centre aerial view

Work begins at Rivermead this week

  • Work begins on the new leisure centre and swimming pool at Rivermead this week
  • The development will include a 25m 8-lane competition pool and diving pool
  • Facilities open by spring 2023

READING’S major leisure project will take its next significant step forward this week, with work beginning at the Rivermead site from today, 31 August.

This is the second key milestone this month, after phase 1 work started at Palmer Park on the new community pool.

The work is part of the Council’s £40M investment in new leisure facilities for the town, including delivering two brand new pools, a modern leisure centre and improvements to existing leisure facilities, by spring 2023.

Work is anticipated to start at the Rivermead site today after the Reading Festival has taken place.

The new Rivermead facilities will include:

  • 25m 8 lane competition pool, with moveable pool floor
  • Splash pad for younger users
  • A combined teaching and diving pool with a moveable floor
  • 25m 5 lane club/swim lesson pool (demountable pool)
  • A café, information hub, and soft play
  • A 6-court sports hall with 250 spectator seats
  • A 120-station gym with 3 studios
  • A new outside play area

The existing leisure centre will remain open until the new centre is complete to ensure no gap in people’s leisure service.

The work at this site will take place in 2 phases, with the construction of the new leisure centre and the external public spaces completed before the demolition of the existing facility in Phase 2, which will make way for the remaining external areas, new sections of car park and a new play area.

In Phase 1, the new leisure centre will be built on the eastern side of the main existing leisure centre car park. Initially this will involve the construction of a new access road to the rear of the leisure centre and a portion of the public space surrounding the outside of the new leisure centre.

As part of the redevelopment, a new improved play area is being created on the site of the existing leisure centre. The existing play area is within the footprint of the development site necessitating its closure from 31 August for safety reasons. Alternative play areas are available close by at Christchurch Meadows – less than a mile walk along the Thames path or Beresford Road playground in west Reading, just over half a mile through Cow Lane Bridge.  Several pieces of equipment from the existing play area will be transferred and utilised at another play area in the borough. 

At Palmer Park, where work started on 2 August, in addition to the refurbishment of the existing stadium building, there will be:

  • A modern new 25 metre, 6-lane community pool
  • A 100-station gym with three studios
  • An activity zone for children with party rooms,
  • And a new café and information hub.

The new community pool and facilities will open to the public in late 2022.

There will also be improvements at South Reading and Meadway leisure centres starting later this year.

Alongside the development of new facilities, there will be a drive to improve health and wellbeing across Reading, aiming for a 40% increase in participation levels, with targeted activities to help reduce health inequalities, including discounts for young, older, and disabled people; weight management courses, cardiac and cancer rehabilitation, fall prevention interventions and dementia-friendly training for staff.

 Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Sport, said: “Today we have both major builds at Rivermead and Palmer Park underway. This well and truly provides residents with tangible evidence of our commitment to delivering the new facilities.

“Despite the unprecedented challenges of the past year, the Council and our leisure partners, GLL, remain fully committed to delivering the modern new leisure facilities a town of our size and status deserves.

“By spring 2023, Reading will boast a 25m 8-lane competition pool with dedicated diving provision at Rivermead and a brand new 25m 6-lane community pool at Palmer Park, linked to existing sports facilities. We have chosen an option that achieves a good balance for Reading, for the community and for families.

"As a Council, taking action on the climate emergency is a top priority for us. The new centres will be constructed to BREEAM Excellent environmental standards and with renewables wherever possible.  Measures to reduce carbon emissions and improve environmental efficiency will hopefully make Reading’s leisure facilities some of the most environmentally friendly in the UK.

“As well as the improved facilities across all leisure sites being delivered over the next two years, there will also be a drive to increase activity, health and wellbeing across the borough, with weight management courses, cardiac and cancer rehabilitation and targeted work in the community to reach those in most need and work towards reducing health inequalities.”

Paul Shearman, GLL’s Partnership Manager for Reading said: “This is another important milestone on the road towards delivering state-of-the-art leisure facilities to the people of Reading. 

“The benefits that the new Rivermead leisure centre and pool will offer the local community are huge.  The pandemic has highlighted the importance of keeping physically active and maintaining a healthy weight; offering a modern, welcoming, state-of-the-art environment will undoubtedly encourage greater participation. It will also enable us to provide a wide range of dedicated courses and activities, giving residents of all ages and fitness levels far greater choice.”

Gert-Jan Peeters, director Pellikaan UK, said: “We look forward to working with Reading Council and GLL on both the Palmer Park and the Rivermead centres. It will be great to see the new facilities take shape and with our vast experience in the construction of leisure centres, we know that we will be providing some great facilities that will inspire the people of Reading to be active.”

Following an operational transfer on 1 July 2021, GLL now operates all of Reading’s four leisure centres on the Council’s behalf, including: Meadway Leisure Centre, South Reading Leisure Centre, Palmer Park Sports Stadium and Rivermead Leisure Centre.

GLL has introduced membership and customer schemes, allowing access to every single Council sports facility across the borough, with a free ‘Reading Resident’s Card’ giving up to 30% discount from activity charges, and up to 50% discount for concessions.

For regular updates on the leisure project visit www.better.org.uk/new-reading-leisure  or follow the Council on social media @ReadingCouncil Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or GLL at @Better_Reading



Notes to editors


Media opportunity: There will be a press opportunity for photos and video at Monday 4 October at 1.30pm at Rivermead. Please contact Victoria.Nicklesss@Reading.gov.uk if you would like to attend.

New Leisure Project

For more information on the leisure investment project visit www.better.org.uk/new-reading-leisure


GLL, who operate under the brand ‘Better’, is a non-profit charitable Social Enterprise organisation that runs over 250 sport and leisure facilities on behalf of local authorities across the UK. The leisure provider has already partnered the Council in the delivery of Rivermead Leisure Complex for the past 15 years.  www.better.org.uk 


Pellikaan specialises in the design and build construction of leisure centres and have successfully delivered hundreds of sports and leisure centres in the UK, The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. The company also built the current Rivermead Leisure Centre in the late 1980s, which is now to be replaced. www.pellikaan.com/en