Join Hemel Hempstead's Olympic hero Max Whitlock as he opens new leisure centre - and enjoy a picnic in the park

Olympic hero Max Whitlock MBE to open Harpenden’s new multi-million pound leisure centre

Monday, 20th September 2021, 11:22 am

Members of the public are invited to join Hemel Hempstead's Olympic gold medal winning gymnast Max Whitlock MBE when he officially opens a new multi-million pound leisure centre in Hertfordshire.

There will be a celebratory Picnic in the Park in Harpenden on Friday, September 24, and residents are invited to join the gold medallist and other sports stars.

Max, who won his third Olympic gold at the pommel horse in Tokyo this summer, was born and brought up in Hemel Hempstead - a few miles from the centre.

Olympic hero Max Whitlock

He will be joined by badminton star Gail Emms MBE who won silver at the 2004 Olympic Games.

Sports clubs, school and community groups will be present at the launch at the centre in Rothamsted Park from 4pm to 6pm with residents urged to come along.

A number of family-friendly games and activities, including tennis sessions, are being arranged.

The centre was rebuilt by owners St Albans City and District Council as part of a £20 million project which includes the creation of a new culture centre named after comedy legend Eric Morecambe.

Managed by contractor 1Life, the leisure centre opened for business in April and has built up a growing membership of almost 4,000 and more than 1500 local children on the Swim School swimming lesson programme.

Councillor Anthony Rowlands, chair of the council’s public realm committee, said: “I am thrilled that Max has agreed to come along and open the new leisure centre that we are proud to have delivered.

“He is one of our greatest ever Olympians, with six medals to his name, and his presence at the opening will be inspirational to leisure centre users of all ages and abilities.

“The new centre is a great asset for the town and surrounding villages as it boasts not only a 25-metre swimming pool but also a learner pool, three exercise studios, sports hall and an 80-station gym.

“Max will be joined by other sports stars, including Gail Emms, and I am sure many centre users and residents will accept our invitation to come along, have a picnic and join in the fun. It should be a great celebration.”

Max and Gail will assist Councillor Edgar Hill, Mayor of St Albans City and District, with the official ribbon-cutting.

Mark Braithwaite, 1Life Managing Director, said: “Following the further relaxation of restrictions in recent months, we’re delighted to welcome our valued members of the public to celebrate the opening of Harpenden Leisure Centre with us over a fun-filled, family picnic.

“We have a great local community around here and we’d love to see as many people down at the centre as possible. We have a wide range of activities, facilities and classes for people to enjoy and we can’t wait to get more people involved.”