BASILDON’S Sporting Village has attracted three and a half million visitors since it opened three years ago.

The £38million complex opened in April 2011 under controversial circumstances, but the number of visitors to the facility has risen year-byyear and exceeded expectations.

The number of people signing up to swimming and fitness classes at the centre has also risen since 2011, with the Olympic effect in Basildon showing no sign of slowing down.

Basildon Council is preparing to enter a profit-sharing arrangement with the centre’s operators, Everyone Active, so the taxpayer feels the benefit of the facility.

Greg Barsby, manager of the centre, said: “We have some top-class facilities at affordable prices.

“The Olympic effect helped and encouraged people back into sport and I think that shows in having 2,900 people sign up to swimming lessons.

“What has also helped, is the elite athletes we’ve had here. They have shown people what they can achieve.”

The complex has about 2,900 swimmers learning there, a 500-person increase from 2011 and up on the 850 from the old Gloucester Park pool.

The fitness suite at the centre, which offers a pay-as-yougo service, has more than 4,000 active members.

In the past year, the complex’s aerobics class has had 80,000 visitors.

The Sporting Village offers facilities including a 50m Olympic-standard pool, an athletics stadium, gymnastics hall, eight badminton courts, a 100-machine fitness suite, an indoor climbing wall and 17 outdoor football pitches.

The council had to raise £16million through land sales to pay to build the centre, with several patches of land being sold for housing in the borough – each one in controversial circumstances.

The Tory administration also came under fire for building the complex in Gloucester Park and selling more of the green space to developers.

Kevin Blake, councillor responsible for leisure, said: “It’s a top-class facility at middle class prices.

“We expected a lull after the Olympics, but the numbers of people through the doors has exceeded our expectations.

“We’ve only had to build on a small part of Gloucester Park and that included removing a pool that was on its last legs.”