Our History

Here at Parkwood we have enjoyed a long and varied history, working in partnership with Local Authorities to deliver leisure services for over twenty years. Find out more about where we have come from below.

Foundation

Parkwood Leisure was launched in 1995 as Glendale Leisure, with the founding vision of helping Local Authorities to manage their leisure facilities more effectively and more efficiently than ever before.

At the time, there was little cooperation between private and public sector organisations with each council directly managing their own services and merely buying products or services from companies as and when required. With rising leisure costs through continued population growth and the impact of the recession of the early 1990s on Local Authority budgets, this was becoming increasingly unsustainable, however, and the quality of in-house leisure services was beginning to fall as a result. In response to this and following the introduction of Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT), Glendale Leisure stepped in and helped to pioneer a new model of working in partnership with Local Authorities, achieving their aims in terms of participation and quality of service whilst using our private sector expertise to do so.

Early Beginnings

This new model had clear advantages over the previous approach and it was only a few short months before the company won its first leisure contract, operating in partnership with South Bucks District Council to manage their facilities. This quickly led to a fall in spending for the Council and a rise in participation and other qualitative measures. In fact, this new method of operation was so successful for South Bucks that by the end of the year word had spread and the company had secured an additional contract with North Hertfordshire District Council, worth over £2.5m.

This pattern continued throughout the following years, so that by the time Glendale Leisure became Parkwood Leisure in 2002, the company had grown considerably, operating over twenty six facilities on behalf of Local Authority clients with a combined turnover of over £12.5m. During this early period, many of our core values began to crystallise, such as our commitment to bringing Quality, Care and Excellence to every centre we operate and our use of strong brands to help customers form an emotional attachment to the services we offer, helping to drive participation.

Growth and PFI contracts

In early 2003, Parkwood Leisure opened the UK’s first Public Finance Initiative (PFI) centre in Crosby. This landmark project, which received widespread coverage in the national press at the time, was the result of a new approach from Parkwood as we looked to re-evaluate the ways in which we could work alongside Local Authorities. By coming to the table at the start of the project, rather than taking over an existing facility as had previously been the case, we were able to play a leading role in the design and creation of the centre for the first time, using our knowledge and expertise to ensure that the residents of Crosby received a world-class facility that fully met their needs and requirements.

With the successful launch of Crosby, Parkwood quickly became known for its expertise and diligence in the design and construction of leisure centres. The finished building was so striking that the centre was nominated for a range of construction and architectural awards and drew praise for its sustainable design. With this newly won reputation as one of the leading companies for PFI projects in the leisure sector Parkwood’s growth significantly accelerated with a new wave of public finance projects.

Chief amongst these was a partnership with the London Borough of Bexley. Covering the construction of three new leisure centres at Sidcup, Erith and Crook Log at a value of £33m, this was the largest leisure Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative ever delivered in the UK and helped propel the company to new heights. Fresh from this success, Parkwood purchased competitor CCL Leisure in 2004, increasing the number of centres it operated to sixty. These new contracts, in addition to further PFI and PPP agreements agreed with North Somerset, Rushcliffe and Portsmouth, ensured that Parkwood continued to grow its leisure centre business throughout the remainder of the decade, becoming one of the largest and most successful operators in the country.

Diversification

With its leisure business firmly established, Parkwood began to look at other examples of publicly owned facilities where there was an opportunity for private management and stewardship. One of the first such opportunities to present itself was theatre management, with many synergies existing between the two types of facility. As such, in 2011 Parkwood gained responsibility for the Playhouse Theatre and the Winter Gardens in Weston-super-Mare. Shortly after this the company began its first standalone theatre contract at the Hawth in Crawley.

With these contracts in place and a number of successful productions delivered, the decision was made to launch a dedicated theatres brand, Parkwood Theatres, with the founding aim of supporting councils to help reduce the cost of arts and culture provision. The Hazlitt Theatre in Maidstone was added to our portfolio in 2013 and the theatre division continues to enjoy significant growth through to the present day.

In addition to Theatres, Parkwood continues to diversify outside of its core leisure management business. A dance brand, Sway Dance, was launched in 2011 and has been able to expand throughout our leisure and theatre facilities and has helped to encourage hard to reach demographics, such as teenage girls, into regular exercise. The Change Gear brand was launched in 2014 to complement our increased investment in cycling centres, whilst Parkwood Outdoors was launched in early 2015 following the purchase of the Dolygaer outdoor education centre in the Brecon Beacons and has since been bolstered by the addition of a second site in Cardiff. Each of these brands continues our overarching aim of helping to run leisure facilities efficiently and effectively for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Looking to the Future

Today Parkwood is stronger than it has ever been, operating over 87 diverse facilities for a wide range of locations and clients. In over twenty years of operation, we have assembled the expertise, brands and experience to successfully manage all manner of leisure contracts and are able to work on projects of varying size, scope and scale while delivering consistent results.

As Local Authorities continue to try and balance austerity measures and reduced budgets for discretionary services such as leisure centres with rising populations and associated costs, there are a significant number of opportunities for Parkwood to step in and help councils alleviate this pressure, whilst looking to increase the quality of provision.

If you have an opportunity you would like to discuss with us, please get in touch with a member of the business development team who would be happy to arrange a meeting or a tour of one of our sites or, for a more in depth look at some of the work we have done, visit some of our case studies.