PLANS are being drawn up for a £20m Olympic-sized swimming pool and ice rink on the site of the former Edwin Davis department store in Hull city centre.
Councillor Terry Geraghty, cabinet member for sport and leisure, has suggested a compulsory purchase order could be used to take over the Bond Street site, next to a council car park.
He said: “I want to see a 50m swimming pool, combined with an ice rink, in the city centre.
“Some people outside Hull still think we’re a backwater. We’re not and we’ll soon have an Olympic-size swimming pool.
“We have people looking at a number of sites now and my preferred site would be Bond Street.
“This site has been derelict for many years. It’s become a blight and, if we’re looking to move this city forward, it’s not good enough to have buildings left unused for years.”
Cllr Geraghty conceded there has long been talk of a city centre Olympic-size pool to rival those in Leeds and Sheffield, but insists it is about to become a reality.
“People have waited years for one,” he said. “I have been in local government 44 years and I am more optimistic than I have ever been.
“In my opinion, it’s surprising that Hull, given its size and catchment area, which includes roughly one million people, does not have an Olympic-size swimming pool.
“It makes sense to combine a pool and ice rink. The ice rink could help heat the pool.
“You only have to stick your hand behind the back of your fridge at home to see how much heat comes out.”
In April, City Activities Limited will take over the running of the council’s museums, leisure centres, libraries and parks, saying the cash-strapped council about £1m a year.
Cllr Geraghty said the council-owned company immediate priority will be improving facilities at Hull New Theatre, Ferens Art Gallery and Woodford and Ennerdale leisure centres.
“The swimming pool and ice rink will form part of the second tranche,” he said.
“But I would expect the pool and ice rink to be built within the next four or five years. That’s realistic.”
Cllr Geraghty said the creation of a large pool in the centre of Hull would not threaten the future of 25m pools in other areas of the city.
“The Olympic-size pool would be used to host international events and, of course, training for those taking part in these events,” he said.
“Ennerdale caters for the north of the city. There’s Woodford in the east, and Albert Avenue and Beverley Road in the west.
“That won’t change, but as we’ve already said, East Hull Pools will close once work at Woodford is completed.”
Cllr Geraghty said the ability to build both a 50m swimming pool and an ice rink on the Bond Street site depends on the fate of the former Edwin Davis building next to the car park.
London developer Hollybrook Homes currently owns the site.
Hull commercial property agent Garness Jones is inviting offers of about £1m.
Cllr Geraghty said the council was not yet ruling out developing Hull Arena, in Kingston Street, as an alternative to building a new rink.
“It needs money to be spent on it,” he said.
“When it was built 20 years ago, we deliberately ensured there was space to extend it at a later date.
“That is still an option, although there would not be enough room to house both an Olympic-size swimming pool and an ice rink, so we would have to look elsewhere to site the pool.”
Steve Collins, chairman of Kingston-upon-Hull Swimming Club, which has 240 members, said: “We would welcome a 50m pool. It would give City Activities Limited the opportunity to host competitions and high-level meetings.
“It would also help raise the profile of swimming and bring back the city’s swimming heritage.”
Bobby McEwan, owner of the Hull Stingrays ice hockey team, which is based at Hull Arena, said he would be “very happy” for the club to move into a modern, multipurpose venue.