The University of Birmingham is moving a step closer to an ambitious £175 million redevelopment plan featuring an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
It has submitted a planning application to Birmingham City Council which, if successful, will see the transformation of its Edgbaston campus.
Plans include a new sports centre – which will house Birmingham’s only 50-metre swimming pool – as well as a new library with a “cultural hub” open to the public.
The five-year investment programme has been heralded as reinterpreting the vision of university founder Joseph Chamberlain, and will join a new music building currently nearing completion on a campus.
News of the planning application comes as the university prepares to play host to the Jamaican track and field team ahead of the London Olympics.
It is hoped that planned sports centre will cement the university’s reputation as one of the leading sporting universities in the UK.
University director of sport Zena Wooldridge said: “Birmingham is a city with a proud sporting heritage and sport plays a huge part in the life of our campus.
“This year the city will be hosting the Jamaican and US Olympic teams for their pre-London 2012 training campus and athletes from Birmingham will be starring at the London games.
“Although the new sports centre will not be open for 2012, it will provide fitting facilities for the UK’s second ranked sporting University and a perfect base to train and develop future Olympians.”
The planning application was submitted following “extensive consultation”, including drop-in information events for the community.
Plans for the sports centre include a swimming pool with seating for up to 240 spectators, a “triple sports hall” which will host national sporting events, as well as a gym where students can take part in activities including fencing, table tennis, martial arts and circuit training.
It will also house squash courts, an indoor climbing wall, dance studios and a wellbeing and high performance research centre.
The University’s existing Munrow Sports Centre is used by more than 1,000 members from the surrounding areas, as well as local schools, community clubs and athletes for training.
If approved, the new centre will be open to staff, students and members of the public, in addition to providing “specialist support” for the city’s elite sportsmen and women.
Preparations are also well underway for the arrival of the Jamaican team in the summer, who will be using the Edgbaston campus as their pre-Olympic training camp. The running track is currently being re-laid on campus ready for the team’s arrival.
Senior sports lecturer Dr Matt Bridge, who has been selected to carry the Olympic flame when the torch relay passes through the West Midlands, said excitement was building on campus.
He said: “I work at the Muirhead Tower, which overlooks the running track and when you see the work going on you think ‘this really is happening’.
“It’s going to be fantastic for the university and for the city. School children will be coming down in July for a training session, and our community open day on June 12 will have lots of sporting-themed events.
“It’s fantastic to be a part of this, and to carry the Olympic torch will be a great honour for me.”