A Look Inside... The UB Sport & Fitness Centre | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

A Look Inside… The UB Sport & Fitness Centre

Harry Wilkinson and Olli Meek were treated to a tour of the new UB Sport & Fitness Centre at the weekend, here's what they found out

Redbrick was given a tour around the new sports centre, UB Sport & Fitness, by Birmingham Director of Sport Zena Woolridge OBE. The centre, which opens on the 22nd May, is to become a long-term base for sport at the University of Birmingham, aiming to cater opportunities for novice sportspeople and world-class athletes alike, providing a state-of-the-art facility both for students and the local community to enjoy. It is this inclusive plan that places participation, rather than elitism, at the forefront of UB Sport’s intentions and the opening comes off the back of the Sport, Exercise, and Rehabilitation Sciences Department having been named fifth in the world for sports-related subjects.

The front entrance is spacious and impactful. A novice climbing wall, which could be described as more like an art sculpture, overlooks the main reception creating quite an imposing feel to the room. Also, a relatively decent sized Costa is off to right-hand side, which gives coffee-drinkers the option to look out onto the pool.

Swimming Pool

The new swimming pool has had much attention over the course of the centre’s construction, and the group being taken round was given insight into the fact and the fiction behind some of the rumours. The pool is 50.001 metres in length, with a boom that will be used to separate it into two separate 25 metre pools when needs require. The boom can be moved in approximately 16 minutes, with the adjustable floor in one end of the pool having the potential to be raised or lowered in around a minute and a half.

The reason that the pool cannot be called Olympic-size is because it is narrower than Olympic specification. This is a detail that was intentionally incorporated into the design, because of the heightened demand and obligation that Olympic specification would place on the new sports centre to hold bigger events and galas. These high-profile events would in turn impede on the experience that regular customers would have access to at these times, in line with the centre’s emphasis on the University and local community gaining the most possible benefit from the facilities. This is in addition to the limitation on space that the Bristol Road creates.

The pool is 50.001 metres in length, with a boom that will be used to separate it into two separate 25 metre pools when needs require

Another result of the emphasis on delivering for students and the local community is the pool allowing 200 spectators, as the space that more seats would take up could be put to more practical use with other areas benefitting as a result. An additional feature in the pool area are the changing facilities, which brought more information on the delay to the centre’s opening. One of the features of the changing space is the tiling, which is intended to create the feel of a premium venue for those using it, at whatever level. However, this finish was not achieved by the first tilers to be hired for the sizeable job, so the space needed to be stripped and re-done, hindering the schedule.

Other notable aspects of this part of the centre are the keyless lockers, controlled by an electronic wristband given to each member, and the disabled changing facilities equipped with winches and space for up to two carers at once, along with the pool’s chair lift.


The gym is perhaps the most important area of the centre for the majority of people who will buy membership. The upper level (or ‘cardio area’) is home to lots of high-tech treadmills, including non-power variations, rowing machines, and a number of resistance machines. There is also a separate small area with a small rack of dumbbells and a couple of benches. The main wall imposing itself on the room is entirely redbrick, creating a welcome ruggedness to a mostly whitewashed interior.

The lower level, or the free weights area, is very long with a decent amount of floor space. From what I could count on quick observation, on the left side of the room there is about 10 adjustable benches alongside the dumbbell rack (which has dumbbells that go up in 2kgs); 4 flat benches for barbell bench press; 2 or 3 for incline bench; 2 leg press machines; and some other things like a preacher curl bench etc. On the right half of the room are the Olympic lifting platforms, used for squats, deadlifts and the likes. There seemed to be about 6-8 of these - these numbers may be slightly wrong or change, so don’t quote me on them religiously! In the middle of these two halves is a 4-sided cable station much like the one in the free weights room at Munrow, used for cables exercises like Lat Pull Down etc.

One room we visited had an anti-gravity treadmill (used for rehabilitating injured athletes) worth around £70,000

Everything in there is obviously brand new and the dumbbells, in particular, seemed to be very good quality. The floor space is decent, although it remains to be seen as to how it will cope with busy periods in peak times for gym use (such as 5pm onwards). The ceiling is high so it seems like it would feel like a spacious and comfortable place to workout, but as I said, we will have to wait until it opens to see whether the space can handle the inevitable high volume of users. Hopefully it will.

Moving on, in a separate area there is also the high performance gym, which is reserved for elite performers and athletes presumably to keep them out of the way of people using the main gym. It has 6 Olympic-lifting stations, 3 benches and a rack of dumbbells. This room is situated next to the High Performance hub, where there are rehabilitation and physiotherapy consultancy rooms. One room we visited had an anti-gravity treadmill (used for rehabilitating injured athletes) worth around £70,000. Things like this reflect how advanced some of the equipment in the place actually is.

'Munrow' Sports Hall

The main sports hall in the centre is designed to be a multi-purpose venue for a large range of sports including badminton, basketball, and volleyball. It features 12 professional size badminton courts and bleacher seating to hold 781 spectators. To contribute to the versatility of the space, this seating is divided into three independent sections, as well as the hall being divisible into three as well.

1000 lux LED lighting means it will be able to host televised events without the need for additional lighting equipment to be brought in, with the energy usage of these lights being considered in line with the university’s green footprint policies. It was explained that the vision for the future of the hall is that all students will have access to it for specific events, such as some BUCS Wednesdays competitions, so that they can spectate and encourage greater all round support for sporting competitions at the university.

Other features of the centre are the six squash courts, dojo, and a variety of multi-purpose spaces and studios that can be used for events from group exercise classes to tournament offices for bigger events.

Updates to Bournbrook

The work currently being carried out on the pitches at Bournbrook is a further investment in sport at the University of Birmingham. The current rugby pitch is being relayed with an all-weather 4G surface that will also be able to hold sports such as football, and the hockey pitches are being rotated through 90 degrees. The reason for this rotation is because of their current orientation as facing East to West rather than North to South, an issue in sunny conditions, especially for goalkeepers.

It is envisioned that the space this adjustment will create can play host to tennis courts between the hockey pitches and the rugby pitch, and it will soon have a new sports pavilion alongside as well. It is hoped that the work will be completed over the summer to be ready for September.

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8th May 2017 at 10:00 am

Last Updated

8th May 2017 at 1:35 pm

Images from

Jenny Perez Photography and Harry Wilkinson