North East leisure trust Tees Active has recently celebrated the Golden Anniversary of the iconic leisure centre Billingham Forum, marking 50 years since it was opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth II in October 1967.
The leisure facility was the first of its kind in Europe to offer its unique combination of sporting, entertainment and recreational activities all under one roof.
At the time of opening, traditional leisure centres as we now know them were largely unheard of, and the local architect practice, Elder Lester and Partners, were briefed with the challenge to design a ‘super type of family recreation facility’.
At a cost of £1m, the new building was a remarkable feat of engineering and innovation, most notably for the unique ice arena roof, which is constructed using a Swedish system of stressed wire ropes.
‘The Forum’, as it is known locally, was famed for its ice arena, theatre, fine dining restaurant and swimming pool, which attracted visitors nationally and from across the region.
Many leisure professionals from around the UK will undoubtedly have visited the Forum over the decades, and even today, it still attracts visits from local authorities and the leisure profession to view and learn from its current offer.
Over the years Billingham Forum has welcomed stars of the stage, screen and sport to the theatre and leisure centre and hosted national and international events.
However, it is the local community that is the lifeblood of the venue and it retains a special place in the hearts of people from Teesside and beyond.
Stockton-based leisure trust Tees Active acquired the management of Billingham Forum in 2004 before investing £18m in partnership with the Stockton Council in 2009 to redevelop the facility, expand its leisure offer and bring it up to modern day standards.
Today Billingham Forum welcomes in excess of a million visitors each year following the expansion of its gym and the introduction of a £300,000 indoor climbing attraction in 2016.
Tees Active managing director Steve Chaytor said: “Billingham Forum is a truly iconic building, loved by the community and with its place in the history of public sport and leisure provision secured firmly, it is remarkable to see a facility that is able to evolve and reinvent itself to serve the next generation. We’re very proud of it.”