Just last month, overseers of the construction of the new aquatics center to be used for the 2022 Commonwealth Games said progress on the estimated £73m (~$95m USD) facility had remained on track during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic. But, just weeks later, the project has hit a crossroads with additional funding needed to keep things in motion.
The state-of-the-art facility positioned in Sandwell, a city just over 5 miles from Birmingham City Centre, is slated to house a 50m long competition pool along with a 25m diving pool, with construction having begun in February of this year.
As we reported on May 17th, ‘since the COVID-19 pandemic began, work has only stopped once – for 24 hours back in March – so safety measures could be put in place for workers, according to Maria Crompton, deputy leader of Sandwell Council.
“We are continuing to monitor the situation and will work closely with all our partners to achieve a successful outcome for the project,” she said at the time.
What a difference several weeks make, however, as Birmingham City Council has revealed it now has to draw on contingency funding in order to keep the project running.
Per Express and Star, Birmingham City Council reportedly has requested an additional £15m in funding overall in order to address increased costs caused by delays through the pandemic, with the aquatic center just one of several venues needing funds.
Speaking at a council scrutiny committee, Birmingham City Council’s leader Councillor Ian Ward said, “There’s not been any drastic change to plans to deliver the games.
“[…] Some contingency funding has been used within the allocated budget for the stadium and the aquatic centre. That’s due obviously to increased costs caused by delays through the pandemic.”
Update: Since time of publishing, SwimSwam was contacted by Birmingham City Council Press & PR Manager Kris Kowalewski. Kowalewski clarified that, “extra funds are not being requested or used because the contingency funding for the Birmingham 2022 capital projects is built into the Games budget agreed in the summer of 2019.
“Reference to the extra £15million, again from this Express and Star piece, relates to Birmingham City Council’s “additionality” costs such as traffic management and street cleaning. This is all wrapped up in the city council’s day-to-day operations and therefore not a Games cost and certainly not a cost within the Games budget – and absolutely not to do with contingencies on building projects like the aquatics centre.
Going back to Ward, in terms of what he expects the 2022 Commonwealth Games to look like in Birmingham, Ward stated, “There will no doubt when these discussions are concluded be something said by the OC [Commonwealth Games Organising Committee] about how all of this is going to work, but I’m not aware of any discussions around social distancing for these events.
“We do need to remain optimistic – hopefully by the time we get to 2022 this whole situation may well be beyond us.
“Let’s hope that science does win out and there is some form of vaccine or mitigation that means we can return our lives to normal.”
Work is expected to be completed in spring 2022, with the swimming and diving events for the Commonwealth Games scheduled for July 27th to August 7th of that year. The building would then officially be open for public use in May of 2023.
For many years the swimming industry has produced great British swimmers and still does, such as Sharon Davies, Adam Peaty and many others; the motivation now for children and adults alike in achieving personal and competition aims has momentum. For many years mature beings had basic pools locally. The University of Birmingham Selly Oak now has their 50m pool including for community use so when the Sandwell Aquatics Centre is complete for the Commonwealth Games, the legacy is it will add value to the region. Remember though, Birmingham taxpayers are helping with the Aquatics Centre as well as Government grant so I hope the pool stays on track, within budget for all involved in the wider region.