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‘An amazing asset’: Residents share their views on Romford’s new Sapphire Ice and Leisure Centre

PUBLISHED: 17:00 05 February 2018

The opening of Sapphire Ice and Leisure centre in Romford. Photo by Ellie Hoskins

The opening of Sapphire Ice and Leisure centre in Romford. Photo by Ellie Hoskins

Ellie Hoskins +44(0)7743306087 www.elliehoskins.com

After years of planning and work, the Sapphire Ice and Leisure centre finally opened its doors to the public this weekend, offering a range of activities for Romford residents.

The Mayor of Havering, Cllr Linda Van den Hende, leader of the council, Cllr Roger Ramsey, Romford MP Andrew Rosindell and former Olympic hurdler Colin Jackson were at the official opening of the centre on Saturday, February 3.

Cllr Roger Ramsey said: “I think this is one of the greatest achievements for the council. It has taken enormous determination and about seven years’ work from conception.

“It’s good to see so many people coming in, because it’s for the people, for all the local residents.

“I am particularly grateful that building a massive centre like this in such a restricted street, the builders managed to do it with the buses still running, and very little disruption.”

Work began on the £25m leisure centre in Western Road in April 2016.

Cllr Ramsey added: “The other really pleasing thing is that we were able to deliver this on budget and at no cost to the council tax payer.

“We did it through land deals and a £2m grant from Sport England.

“This is a really magnificent occasion for Romford.”

Colin Jackson, former Olympic hurdler told the Recorder: “It’s all about the community. If you give them nice facilities, then they will want to come and be active, not just to train but to have that social aspect too.

“The most difficult thing is getting people through the doors, but then you can hook them in and people can try all sorts of things.”

Alongside the ice skating rink, there is a gym, dance studios and two swimming pools.

Nicola Farnham from Woburn Avenue, Hornchurch was at the opening with her two daughters.

She said: “It looks marvellous, and I hope it is well looked after.

“It has the illusion of not being in the middle of Romford.”

Nicola’s nine-year-old daughter Eleanor was glad to be one of the first through the doors so she could see Ray Quinn at the official opening ceremony.

She said: “It was very exciting, everyone around us was screaming when they saw Ray.”

Lucy Wallace from Hornchurch said: “It’s fabulous, a really brilliant replacement for the last centre we had.

“We haven’t had a swimming pool in Romford since the Dolphin centre. It’s an amazing asset for the town.”

Christie Tavers, from The Maltings in South Street, took her two boys aged six and nine to the opening.

The mum-of-two said: “I used to go to the Rom Valley Way, ice rink about 20 years ago.

“So for me personally, it’s amazing. We don’t do much on the weekends, and now even when there’s bad weather the boys can come here.

“We used to travel for half an hour to our nearest pool and now it’s just a few minutes by bus.”

Kieran Ward, 50, from Romford, signed up with his partner, Marie Newman, 54.

He said: “We’ve seen some of the gym and we’re quite impressed.

“I’m also very impressed by the amount of people that are here.

“I think it just shows that if you give people something to do, they will come out and join in.”

Susan Asser, 70, from Romford, has already become a member, while her friend Joy Warner, 68, from Collier Row, was still deciding at the opening.

Joy said: “It does look good, I just want to see what kind of classes they have first. I like doing yoga and pilates.”

Susan added: “It all looks very lovely. I do wish we could have had an ice skating rink here when we were kids.

“Let’s just hope that they keep the standard up.”

Teenager Evie O’Sullivan from Dagenham said: “There’s not a lot to do around here, so it’s good that we can come here now and ice skate.

“It was great to meet Ray Quinn and watch his performance.”

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