SCHOOL children, park run enthusiasts and local sports groups will soon benefit from improved training facilities at King's Park Athletics Centre, as work gets underway on a full refurbishment.

BCP Council is leading on the work which will bring about a newly resurfaced running track and enhancements to the long jump area.

Works to improve accessibility and lighting are also planned as part of the £452,000 investment.

In 2018, AFC Bournemouth confirmed it was working with the council on plans for a new stadium at their preferred site within King's Park, involving a redevelopment of the athletics stadium land.

However, later that year it was announced that the project was delayed, with the club's shareholders and board of directors stating that having a new stadium ready by the summer of 2020, as initially planned, was “overly optimistic”.

During a meeting between Cherries representatives and members of the Cherries Trust supporters group in September last year, chief executive Neill Blake said the club would love to have a new stadium but only when it is financially viable to do so.

The Daily Echo understands the refurbishment of the athletics stadium does not change Cherries' situation with regards to where they would want any potential new stadium to be.

Discussing the investment in the athletics centre, Councillor Mohan Iyengar, BCP Council portfolio holder for tourism, culture and leisure, said: “King's Park Athletics Centre is a superb venue, hosting everyone from school children right up to elite competitors.

“It’s a community hub and a symbol of our commitment to active and healthy lifestyles for our residents.

“Recently we announced a strategy which looks at the quality and accessibility of playing pitches across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole over the next 10 years. Now this announcement for Kings Park is a further sign of our intention to invest in and improve outdoor sports facilities.”

Almost 12,000 school children a year participate in events at the Kings Park Athletics Centre which has been in operation for over 60 years.

Recognised as an important community asset, the Centre is the home of Bournemouth Athletic Club and regularly hosts and provides a base for athletics league matches and open meets, school championships, more than 20 school sports days, parkrun, running clubs and weekly training sessions for people with learning disabilities.

This investment is needed in order to be granted a renewed accreditation certificate for the coming year. The council worked with Sports Lab Consultancy on the design and following a full tender exercise, Cleveland Land Services have been appointed to carry out the work.

The refurbishment, which commences in February while the centre is already shut due to lockdown, is expected to take three months.

As part of the refurbishment, the council will also replace the old floodlights with modern LED lighting that use up less energy, contributing to the council’s commitment to make its operations carbon neutral by 2030.

In 2019 the Bournemouth Athletic Club who train at the Centre, was the highest ranked non-city club in the British Athletics League.

Now in 2021, following a merger of men’s and women’s teams to form a new National Athletics League, the club will undertake training at the centre when it reopens, to enable athletes to prepare for competing against clubs including Manchester and Liverpool in the league.

Tim Hughes, Vice Chair of Bournemouth Athletic Club said: “Kings Park Athletics Centre is an important base for Bournemouth Athletic Club.

“These improvements will not only benefit our members, both young and old, but will enhance their performance on the track and enable them to re-build their fitness levels following a non-competing year in 2020 due to coronavirus.

“It will once again enable us to prepare for competing across the country and, for some of our athletes, at international level.”

The centre is expected to reopen in late spring, Covid-19 restrictions permitting.