THE final whistle has been blown on Poole Sports Centre – ending fading hopes it would reopen under new management.

The facility, in Poole’s Dolphin Centre, shut without warning just before Christmas, when private operator UK Sports Centres Ltd went into liquidation.

Its shock closure left some 40 staff and hundreds of users high and dry, and prompted a public outcry – 4,000 signatures were gathered on a petition calling for it to be saved.

Now, almost a year on, new tenants have been found – but they have no plans to reopen the sports centre.

Stephen Coles, director of retail and leisure at property agent Sibbett Gregory, said: “It won’t be a sports centre, but it will be a leisure facility. It will be an asset for Poole, no doubt about it if the deal goes through, and we are hoping it will.”

He said the legal process was under way, but there was “a while to go yet”. He did not release details of the prospective tenants or their exact intentions.

Liberal Democrat councillor Philip Eades, who was among those who called for the council to save the centre, said it “a sad day for the people of Poole.”

He added: “The sports centre was a very well used popular facility and the council did very little to save it in my view.

“There was still hope it would reopen as a sports centre. It’s a travesty really.”

His view was backed by Roy Carder, of the Dorset County Badminton Association, which made use of the centre’s 10 courts. Mr Carder said members had suffered and other sports clubs had been forced out of the borough or even disbanded following the closure.

He added: “I would have thought more effort would have been made to find an operator to use it as a sports centre. I’m very disappointed.”

Cllr Peter Adams, cabinet portfolio holder for leisure and culture at the Borough of Poole, said: “As the sports centre is a private company, we have no details about the potential new tenant or their plans.”

He added: “We would, however, welcome any new leisure facility which would bring a valuable community space back into use and compliment the existing town centre’s retail and leisure mix.”