What do Sir Mo Farah London 2012 double gold medallist, Moe Sbihi MBE London 2012 bronze medallist and four gold medal winner Paralympian Dave Weir all have in common? They have all trained at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, London. One of London’s top-performing sports institutions, they offer world class sport facilities and services to students, staff, sporting partners and the wider community thanks to a £250k refurbishment by EXF.
St Mary’s University sporting facilities are some of the best in the country and they have a proud history of international sporting success. Athletes from around the world frequently use the facilities in the run up to major competitions such as the London 2012 Olympics and their students have competed globally in the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, to name a few. Providing everything from cricket pitches and a floodlit all-weather pitch to the Sir Mo Farah athletics track and a fitness and conditioning suite, their aim is to provide resources for a variety of interests and skill levels.
St Mary’s as an institution offers a Strength and Conditioning degree which is one of the most advanced and dynamic in the country and has a growing student population to reflect this. It was felt a dedicated training facility was required that could cater for a degree that is constantly evolving and adapting as the industry changes. Therefore, St Mary’s began working on plans to turn an old sports hall into a state-of-the-art Performance Education Centre to be used by students, sport teams and elite athletes as well as overhauling an existing fitness and conditioning suite which is used by the wider university and local community. With such a dynamic portfolio of users and with the desire to differentiate themselves from similar sporting institutions, the design and layout of the areas were of prime importance and where EXF were able to excel.
The fitness and conditioning suite layout was modified so the customer was at the focus to enable a smoother member journey. EXF suggested equipment and a layout that considered how an individual would move through the gym as they progressed from novice user into experienced regular. A site re-brand also formed part of the brief and EXF went to great length to ensure coherent branding throughout including matching the floor and seat covers with existing logos and suggesting colours that would fit in with the scheme.
The Performance Education Centre design brief was driven by the need for it to fulfil degree programme specifications however there was also a desire to future proof the space as well as a prerequisite to ensure the existing screed in the hall was protected. EXF submitted technical documents which calculated the degree of force exerted on the floor if a 100kg weight was dropped from head height and were only off by 1 newton. The wealth of knowledge and technical expertise EXF possess coupled with the truly bespoke service they offer is why they were St Mary’s first choice.
Creating a State-Of-The-Art Facility
The 3500 sq. ft fitness and conditioning suite, comprising of a cardio and resistance area as well as a dumbbell section, was fitted out with EXF’s performance flooring range. With six different flooring options available, each one is suitable for a different training area and is designed to be durable and long lasting which met the university’s requirements of protecting the original screed flooring. Full power racks were then installed with platforms as well as stand-alone platforms to offer more training space for gym users.
The 7300 sq. ft sports hall, the larger of the two contracts, still only took a mere two and a half weeks to complete to a high-end finish/specification. Previous flooring in the facilities had not been fit for purpose and had caused damage to the existing screed. Therefore, EXF, in consultation with engineers, designed a tailored, specialised steel grid bolted to the floor with impact rubber designed into it to ensure no further damage would be incurred. 80 tonnes of 100mm thick performance flooring was then installed. Due to nature of the exercise being undertaken within the area, the flooring needed to be able to absorb substantial shock whilst also minimising wear and tear. Performance flooring uses shock absorption technology as well as anti-slip features ensuring a high quality, hard-wearing and functional covering. Fully integrated force plates were also fitted which read exact weight lifted, measure reaction time and identify misloading on various body parts allowing athletes to truly workout to their full potential.
A wall was modified and made padded by the team to allow for ball work alongside fitting half and full power racks with integrated platforms for strength training. EXF designed a large, bespoke rig with a multi-purpose grass turf beneath to accommodate various workout styles as well as creating an independent use leg press to add to their gold standard facilities. Storage racks were modified to the specifications of the university and in keeping with the newly laid out Performance Education Centre.
The refurbishment has breathed a new lease of life into the facility, one which has not gone unnoticed by users who were a driving force behind a majority of the work. Time was dedicated to engaging with user feedback and providing a space that reflected their wants and desires. Consequently, EXF have created a warmer space where students feel at home, in part thanks to consistent branding throughout the facility, as well as providing a facility that is able to adapt and change as its users’ progress and push themselves further on their fitness journey. The modernisation has ensured that St Marys facilities are second-to-none and has enabled them to grow as a facility as well as retain their current users.
“EXF appealed to us due to the bespoke nature of their service which rival companies simply couldn’t offer” says Tish Jayanetti, Sports Facilities Manager. “The contract requirements were complex however they fulfilled our exact criteria and their attention to detail and know how meant they highlighted things that we ourselves hadn’t even considered. They were a pleasure to work with from start to finish and we now have a spectacular facility that is creating the future sporting stars of tomorrow and contributing to Britain’s sporting legacy.”