ONE of the major sections of the Ards Blair Mayne Wellbeing and Leisure Complex has been closed and the equipment sold off.
The Blacklight Adventure Zone did not reopen after the pandemic and last week a large quantity of equipment from the zone was sold at a public auction.
The equipment for the Adventure Zone cost over £500,000 to purchase and install and it is believed that Ards and North Down Council has lost a considerable amount of money in the auction.
The Blacklight Adventure Zone (BLAZ), was a mixed leisure area which was initially touted by the council to be an ‘exciting leisure opportunity’ for visitors.
The zone included included a crazy golf course, climbing walls, a high-rise rope obstacle course as well as nautical themed decor.
The facility has opened in July 2019, but soon closed after a year of operation due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The area saw 30,000 visitors during the brief time it was open to the public and incurred staffing costs of approximately £45,000.
The council said the main reason for the sale was the ‘anticipation’ for a new use or operator. High running costs and health and safety concerns for staff – due to ultra violet lighting – was also cited.
A council spokeswoman said the BLAZ space is sizeable and located in what has become a very busy and popular leisure facility so now offers an attractive opportunity to a new operator.
“Earlier this year the council agreed to offer a lease on the space,” said the spokeswoman. “Negotiations to this effect are in progress at the present time and we are looking forward to the announcement of an exciting new and unique use for the space in the coming weeks.
“In anticipation of a change of use/operator as a result of these negotiations, the equipment currently installed in the Blacklight Adventure Zone was presented in auction last week. All items were sold.”
She said it is ‘quite usual’ for equipment in the leisure industry to be refreshed after four to five years to ‘keep up with current trends’.
“The leisure mix included indoor golf, climbing walls and a high ropes course, the latter two sports requiring significant staff supervision and training, which pushed operating costs upwards from what had been projected,” added the spokeswoman.
“The facility has also presented some health and safety issues for staff due to the ultraviolet lights.”
However, several users of the leisure centre have voiced their concerns about the auction of the BLAZ equipment.
A local resident called the auction a ‘serious amount of wasted money’, for an area that was in operation for just a year.
“Who was it, who is responsible for this scandalous waste of taxpayers money?”he asked.
Another commented on Facebook: “Such a waste. If Ards (and North Down) Council had actually promoted this area better, it would have been great.”