This month Director of Development Justin Nolan unveiled the plans for Eton’s new sporting facilities. There are two new sports facilities on the horizon, a swimming pool and small sports centre currently being built on the site of the old outside swimming pool, and a main sports centre to be built on the site of the current sports hall.
Mr Nolan explained that the challenging winter of 2012/13, which saw flooding and frozen pitches uprooting the sports programme, was the moment it became clear that the school’s sporting infrastructure needed improving. The outdoor sport areas have since been improved through the development of the Willowbrook site, which provides tennis and hockey courts alongside a pavilion area. The four years ago, Eton looked towards the issue of indoor sport with the support of Hopkins Architects.
The new swimming pool, named ‘Athens’ after the spot on the river where Etonians used to bathe, is intended to mirror the secluded atmosphere of the site by using walls to create a degree of separation from the outside world. The main hall pays homage to Eton’s sporting history, with a permanent on show, and its materials also aim to blend into the existing architecture of the school. The building will be made of the same brick as many of Eton’s buildings. Beyond the facilities for the playing of sport, audio-visual capacity, classroom space and offices will enable in-depth analysis of movement and technique.
Describing the development as ‘transformative’, Mr Newton, Deputy Head (Co-Curricular), explained that the new sports centres would ‘build on what we already have to bring us up to speed with competitor schools’. In his vision for the future of sport at Eton, particular emphasis was placed on the enhanced scope for large numbers of sporting events to happen simultaneously. With the number of spaces that will soon be available, we will also be able to offer more opportunities for recreational sport, for players who simply want to enjoy the game, facilitated by a growing number of coaches and teams.
As well as serving the Eton community, these developments will also be accessible to partner schools and members of the local community in Slough and Windsor. An initiative currently in place is to develop links with local primary schools in Slough and provide swimming lessons, led by specialist teachers, for their pupils.
Construction for the swimming pool and smaller sports centre is on track for completion by September or October of this year, with the rest of the sports centre following suit in early 2024.