KLV theatre, sports arena and gym saved from closure after eleventh-hour deal struck - but conference centre will stay shut

Kettering Leisure Village opened to the public in 1993
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The Lighthouse Theatre, Balance Health Club and Arena Sports were due to close on Monday (July 3) after the operators said the site was no longer financially viable.

Contractors Compass have now agreed to extend their tenancy for two months until September, when owners Phoenix Leisure Management will take over the day-to-day running. But the Kettering Conference Centre part of the Thurston Drive site will remain closed, it was revealed on Wednesday morning.

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A Kettering Conference Centre spokesman said: “We are pleased to confirm that following ongoing discussions with North Northamptonshire Council and Phoenix Leisure Management, a decision in principle has been made subject to the various approvals required, that the Lighthouse Theatre, Arena Sports Centre and Balance Health Club will now remain open.

All facilities at KLV will stay open except the Kettering Conference CentreAll facilities at KLV will stay open except the Kettering Conference Centre
All facilities at KLV will stay open except the Kettering Conference Centre

“We will be supporting with the transition of operations to Phoenix Leisure Management until September 4, 2023.

“As we have previously communicated, we have been running Kettering Conference Centre at a loss for a number of years. The sharp increase in energy and operating costs have made this unsustainable, therefore the conference centre part of the site will not re-open and will close on July 3 as planned.

“The council has confirmed it will continue to support the theatre and arena with a grant that goes towards operating costs and facilitate its use as a community site. The Balance Health Club will also be kept open alongside these facilities.

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“As the extension has only just recently been agreed, further updates will be provided in the coming weeks with regard to any future theatre programme and the process to follow in relation to bookings at the Arena Sports Centre and Balance Health Club.

KLV campaigners celebrate the newsKLV campaigners celebrate the news
KLV campaigners celebrate the news

“We have informed our teams of this decision and would like to thank them for their ongoing professionalism over these past few weeks. We ask that you please be patient as our teams work through the next steps.”

The closure of KLV facilities had been announced on April 27 with the original date of May 31 extended to July 3 after a public outcry.

Negotiations to secure the future of the KLV have been complicated due to the convoluted ownership and contractual arrangements. North Northamptonshire Council leases Kettering Leisure Village from BQ Farms – a company owned by Duke of Buccleuch’s estates, a peppercorn £1-a-year arrangement inherited from the predecessor authority, Kettering Borough Council. NNC has a contractual arrangement with Phoenix Leisure Management, which further sublet KLV to Compass Group Services.

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Compass said their reasons for pulling out of the Kettering Conference Centre were due to their operational costs increasing ‘significantly’ and that the venue was ‘no longer financially viable’.

The announcement then triggered the formation of a residents’ and users’ pressure group – KLV Support Group – who have been campaigning and working towards finding new investors.

Cllr Jason Smithers, leader of NNC, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that all parties have been able to agree a way forward which sees the elements of the complex that play such a vital role in the local community stay open at no additional cost to the taxpayer.

“Throughout this process the council has been pivotal as an enabler and broker so that a deal can be driven forward. We have also shown some pragmatic flexibility so that we can facilitate an outcome which is beneficial to the residents of Kettering and the wider area.

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“I’d like to thank the KLV Support Group and other residents who have shown such tremendous passion and our officers for their commitment and focus. I’d also like to thank my deputy leader, Cllr Helen Howell, for her support as well as Phoenix Leisure Management and Compass for working with us to find a resolution.

“KLV is one of the area’s premier leisure venues and we know how well valued it is by the local community, as indeed it is by us.”

Before the original closure announcement, the KLV site housed about 3,000 health club members, the National Volleyball Centre, sports groups, the British Judo Council, local theatre groups, dance schools, NHS midwifery, personal trainers, therapists, Kettering Town Council, youth groups, volunteers, religious groups, businesses and more, as well as being a hub for local and national elections.

Cllr Helen Howell, deputy leader of NNC, said had been left in ‘utter shock’ at the initial announcement and the was aware of the ‘impact it would have on the residents’ but is pleased at the deal.

She added: “We’re really looking forward to KLV being back to its buzzing self.”