Sandwell Aquatics Centre. Credit Roberts Limbrick.; Sandwell Aquatics Centre. Credit Roberts Limbrick.;

Sandwell Aquatics Centre, Smethwick, Birmingham

Delivering a new aquatics centre for competition and community use in just three years

The Sandwell Aquatics Centre is helping to bring a new sporting focus to the city of Birmingham and the Midlands. Opening to the public in 2023, the new state-of-the-art leisure facility supports an active and healthy population, providing a venue for international swimming and diving competitions as well as a space for the local community.

Arup supported the design of the aquatics centre to create a venue that leaves a lasting legacy for community health and wellbeing. Our team developed engineering concepts that integrate structure and building services to effectively realise the functional requirements within the architectural vision.

In just three years, the facility was taken from design to completion – a significant acceleration over a typical programme for a scheme of this type which is likely to be 5-6 years from planning to delivery.

The £70m investment also contributes to inclusive growth alongside local community building to inspire young people, ensuring swimming becomes a go-to activity for Sandwell residents.

Project Summary

50m olympic-sized swimming pool

1,000permanent spectator seats

72mclear span space

A global stage

Arup has a long track record in sports infrastructure and has helped venues around the world deliver complex design and build programmes on time and on budget. For Sandwell Aquatics Centre, building within an existing residential area presented its own challenges around access, noise and light pollution during construction and after delivery.

Our design focused on minimising the facility’s impact on surrounding habitats as well as neighbouring residences. Cut and fill balancing reduced the height of the building while levelling the football fields around the site. This also provided environmental and economic benefits, reducing the volume of offsite disposal and earth imports.

Our analysis of the building roof, and iteration of the 72m span trusses kept the roof height to a minimum, providing column free space to improve the spectator experience. External lighting was sympathetically designed to reduce disturbance to nearby homes.

Sandwell Aquatics Centre Sandwell Aquatics Centre Sandwell Aquatics Centre
Our design considered challenges around access, noise and light pollution to minimise impacts on neighbouring residences.

The Sandwell Aquatics Centre has the potential to inspire a whole region of people to try new sports, activities and connect with one another. The centre has the potential to create a long-lasting legacy which will motivate generations of citizens to keep active enjoy exercise or even light the flame to move into elite sports, representing their region or country. ” Alice Dearing Tokyo 2020 Olympian, and Co-founder of the Black Swimming Association

A world-class facility

As well as an Olympic-sized 50m-long competition pool, the centre also includes a 25m diving pool, a smaller studio pool and 1,000 permanent spectator seats.

There is also a dry-dive facility, a 108-station gym, a 25-station ladies-only gym, three activity studios, a pair of four-court sports halls, an indoor cycling studio and a café. Externally, a new urban park alongside the new centre features a children’s play area.

Delivering the centre involved complex phasing of installation of these facilities as the building use changes over its first few years of operation.

The new centre has been designed with sustainable principles in mind, using significantly less energy compared to older Olympic-sized pools in the UK. Solar PV panels cover the roof’s flat surfaces, and the building utilises fabric first principles to minimise heat losses in the warm pool environment and reduce the energy demand of the centre.

Sandwell Aquatics Centre. Credit Roberts Limbrick. Sandwell Aquatics Centre. Credit Roberts Limbrick.
From the first stages of design to final completion, it took just three years to deliver the Sandwell Aquatics Centre. © Roberts Limbrick


Residential and Community Structures - Midlands IStructE Awards 2022

Leaving a sporting legacy

Our expertise is helping to save money, time and environmental impact, expanding the uses of the aquatics centre beyond significant sporting events to accommodate wider community and cultural needs. Its design is sympathetic to the local community, aiming to improve the diversity in sport. 

With 30% of its population under the age of 20, Sandwell’s residents now have access to one of the best aquatic facilities in the UK, encouraging an active and healthy lifestyle.

Learn more about our expertise in the sport industry