The Story of the Spectrum

The Heart of the Community

Spectrum’s place at the heart of the community dates back a century - the old Miners Welfare was originally built circa 1920 with the intention of providing recreational facilities for the Mining Community of Willington and the surrounding areas. The centre quickly became the vibrant hub of an active town where everyone was made to feel welcome.

In the 1970s Wear Valley District Council decided to revamp Willington’s facilities with the creation of the Spectrum Leisure Centre - encompassing the Miners Welfare Hall.

In 1982 the new centre opened and provided a focal point for the community. In time a ski slope was created and was officially opened by Franz Klammer – the reigning downhill World Champion.

The centre has staged many high profile activities - including hosting famous names including Question of Sport team Emlyn Hughes, Billy Beaumont and David Colman plus The Nolan Sisters and Wishbone Ash.

However, in the late 1990s the centre started to fail in terms of attendance and the Miners Welfare Hall, together with the ski slope, were closed.

The focus remained on the sports centre but the Council made the decision to streamline their leisure services and Spectrum Leisure Centre was earmarked for closure.

In 2003 Ian and Alison Hirst, who ran the hugely successful Wear Valley Basketball Club from the Spectrum Leisure Centre, decided to speak to the Council with a view to saving the centre from closure.

And that is exactly what happened. Ian and Alison formed a Board of Trustees creating SLAM Community Development Trust. And with the help of a team of volunteers they began the journey to save the Spectrum Leisure Centre.

Following a four-year negotiation, Ian and Steve Winter (Founder Trustee) signed the 99-year lease agreement at 4.30pm on Thursday July 12, 2007 and the journey began for real.

Prior to its relaunch the centre was open for around 18 hours a week, boasted one part-time member of staff and catered for members of the community who understood the facility was in need of serious renovation and investment.

The Trustees built a project piece by piece, to provide a community facility that we can all be proud of. In 2016 the centre employed 10 local people, delivers more than 90 hours of activities per week, boasted a BMX track and ran a Community Transport service that is available to all.

The work is far from done as the Trustees continue to find ways to develop the centre, creating a place where the community can belong. 

Despite the pressues brought about by Covid and constanly rising prices, the centre continues to provide a variety of activities - including both sporting and non-sporting sessions - as well as priding itself on the development of community events that attract hundreds of people.