Ten years ago, the University of Worcester created the UK’s first sporting arena specifically designed to accommodate the wheelchair athlete.
A decade later, the University of Worcester Arena has become a world-leading facility and has set a new benchmark for inclusive sport facilities. It has hosted over 750 major events, including international tournaments. Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball chose the facility as their training base for both the men’s and women’s GB teams as they prepared for the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
Built on the derelict site of the former Worcester fruit and veg market, the Arena was borne from a powerful concept of inclusive sport at the University, underpinned by the belief that everyone should have the chance to participate in physical activity, regardless of their circumstances. The first of its kind in the UK, it exceeds legislative requirements in every respect.
When Sir Philip Craven, former President of the International Paralympic Committee, performed the opening, he described it as “a wonderful place” created by “the right people with the right attitude”.
Since then, over 4.7m people, including 1.3m children, have visited the Arena, whether to participate in sport, education or entertainment activity. The venue has brought elite level sport and top-flight entertainment to the City, including national finals such as the Netball Super League, full international matches and even international, Paralympic qualifying tournaments such as both the Men’s and Women’s European Wheelchair Basketball Tournament 2015.
The Arena is a hub for schools outreach activity, hosts many grass roots clubs and community groups, and provides world class opportunities for students to develop their skills and experience. This inclusive, accessible and open approach has the power to break down barriers, broaden horizons and create a truly inspirational facility for the whole community.
Over the years, it has also inspired others to go further in their thinking when it comes to new sporting facilities. High-level visitors from North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australasia and Africa have come to inspect the Arena to learn from its design as they consider creating new, inclusive facilities in their own countries.
When it comes to study, the elite-level facilities provide students with an excellent training bed for the entire range of sporting degree pathways. Sports therapists can plunge real athletes into the freezing ice baths; aspiring strength and conditioning coaches can put clients through their paces in the Power Suite; and Business Management students can gain invaluable experience working on some of the Arena’s major events.
The Arena, which won the 2015 Guardian University Award for Buildings that Inspire, also provides the perfect gateway for students to gain invaluable practical experience, working with our local schools and community clubs to help the stars of tomorrow train alongside the heroes of today.
Awarded a £1.5m funding grant through Sport England’s Iconic Facilities fund, the Arena carries the London 2012 Inspire mark, a permanent celebration of its role in the legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic games.
The Arena is now creating its own legacy through the creation of further world-leading inclusive sports facilities in the City. The University has already secured planning permission to build the world’s first inclusive cricket education centre in partnership with the England and Wales Cricket Board.