After 12 years of planning, the U-Mix Centre in Sheffield is nearing completion.
The youth and sports facility, which will provide a wide range of activities and services for young people, has been in the making since 1996 when the charity Football Unites Racism Divides (FURD) was founded.
Howard Holmes, founder of FURD and now the Strategic Development Officer told Premier Construction about the project.
“Ever since the charity started we’ve been looking to try and develop some facilities for young people to be able to play football properly. But it’s grown into a much wider youth work project.
“Now our organisation is working in conjunction with other partners to provide activities at the centre. We’ve signed an agreement with the City Council to provide various services here and will create a programme of the various activities to encourage private sector development and support where we can.
“It’s been about 11 or 12 years in the making really, in terms of the planning involved and trying to get the funding together, which reflects the fact that the project is multi-faceted. It’s very much a dream come true in terms of the facilities.”
As well as floodlit artificial grass football facilities and changing rooms the centre has a kitchen, dance studio, recording studio, rehearsal space, gym, training rooms, a positive activities area and a resource centre.
The centre is a joint project between FURD and Sheffield City Council. Sheffield Futures, who help run the careers and youth service in the city, have also been involved.
Regarding funding, the project has been a combined effort through a number of funding pools.
“The main funder is the Department of Education through their Myplace programme which was started under the last government – a major chunk of the money has come from there.
“The City Council has also put money into schemes like the play equipment, which has come out of the Playbuilder programme that the council administer through government funding.
“The Football Foundation awarded £350,000 towards the cost of the football facilities and the changing rooms.”
Building on the project began in the spring of 2011 and was handed over to the charity in May 2012. The centre is a new build in a former green space.
William Birch & Sons Ltd was the main contractor on the rectangular building, which has an industrial, modern look. The architect was Cath Basilio.
From the open entrance hall, a corridor goes down the full length of the building. There are large patio doors which open onto the outside sports facilities and the industrial pipes and fittings within the building have been left exposed to give it a modern feel. There are stone features within the building to give the appearance of a dry stone wall and wood panelling has also been used.
“There were some terraced houses on the land which were knocked down over 30 years ago and it was used by some groups informally, but the site itself was starting to become quite unsafe. There were quite a few collapsed cellars from where the houses had been before – we used to coach on the land and you would come down in a morning and find there was suddenly a hole in the ground from where it had subsided.
“It wasn’t a very pleasant area – it was dark and people rarely walked across after dark even though it was a short cut. There was some evidence of substance misuse so the whole area has been massively improved. It’s a fantastic looking space now.
“Young people have been involved in every part of the planning process, and were helped by Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis to secure funding for the centre.”
“The young people have been involved at every stage of the planning and design process for this and in particular lobbying politicians when it looked doubtful that we would secure funding.
“The young people met with Jessica Ennis who was actually brought up within a javelin’s throw of the centre. She’s very supportive and met with the young people at a time when we thought we might lose the funding – she helped give the centre a lot of really good publicity.
“We’re waiting for a date in her diary so she can come and officially open the centre, along with Kyle Walker, who we recommended to Sheffield United 13 years ago. He now plays for Tottenham Hotspur andEngland– and is an ambassador for the project.
“Trying to get an Olympic gold medallist and Premiership footballer together on the same day is quite difficult. Hopefully we will have the official opening at some point in November.”
William Birch & Sons Ltd
Founded in 1874, William Birch & Sons Ltd used their wide experience in the industry to create the U-Mix Centre.
With a team of over 100 employees based in York, they deal with a very broad spectrum of building types, on contracts worth several million pounds.
Their services include restoration and refurbishment, equipment and lorry hire and new build construction
William Birch & Sons also increasingly work on development projects, where they are responsible for the initial purchase of the land, all aspects of the construction programme and the ultimate lease or sale of the buildings.
They also work to their clients’ choice of procurement method – whether that be traditional contract, design & build, management contract, partnering or joint venture.
Heritage Masonry UK Ltd
Founded in 1993, Heritage Masonry UK Ltd is a masonry company specialising in all aspects of stone masonry and restoration.
Richard Remde, Director of Heritage Masonry UK Ltd, said:
“On the UMix Centre we did all the masonry cladding. The building was built out of concrete and we clad the building in Yorkshire stone to make it look like a stone building.”
Heritage Masonry UK Ltd work on bespoke projects across the country.
“We won a gold medal at Chelsea Flower Show 2012 for a stone building we built in a Peter Dowle garden. We have also worked on footballers houses such as Gary Neville and Wayne Rooney and for high profile clients like the National Trust. I only have ten employees and we focus our efforts on doing good work on quality projects.”