Down Leisure Centre

From the ground up, the design and construction of the new Down Leisure Centre offered Felix O’Hare & Co a wide range of challenges

Felix O’Hare & Co Ltd has built an enviable reputation for reliability and forward- thinking, and the new Down Leisure Centre in Downpatrick tested these credentials to the limit.

The £15.5m facility for Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is a state-of-the-art centre. Facilities in the flagship centre include an 85-station Wellness Technogym with cutting-edge technology, luxury Vitality Health Suite, a spin studio, and a four- court sports hall alongside a six- lane swimming pool and learner pool with moveable floor, which can be adjusted for different ages and abilities.

It replaces the existing Down Leisure Centre which is on an adjacent site and is currently being demolished by Felix O’Hare to be replaced with additional car parking for the new centre. Keeping the existing centre open was just the first of the many challenges that Felix O’Hare faced throughout this challenging construction.

“At every stage of this project we had unique challenges to overcome, but we are delighted with how the completed Down Leisure Centre reflects our ability to create a modern, vibrant and well-used facility for local people,” explained Paul Maginn, Contracts Manager at Felix O’Hare.

The first hurdle was overcome by creating a temporary road and walkways that ensured the general public could safely access the existing facilities without impacting on the construction work.

The next challenge was the foundations, which proved one of a number of unique firsts on the project.

“The ground conditions were exceptionally poor,” explained Paul. “We had to monitor contamination levels throughout the project but, more significantly, we had to work closely with a geotechnical engineer just to be able to build on it safely.”

It took two months for the ground to be stabilised, with a machine pumping and rotating cement mix into the soil followed by the concrete-encased piles set between 30-35m deep.

“This type of stabilisation is generally used for railway tracks going over poor ground conditions, and we believe we are one of the first to use it for a building in Ireland,” added Paul. “The cement mix was the first stage but we also had to avoid undoing all this work when installing the concrete piles. In order to achieve this, bore holes were drilled to slot the piles into.”

Once out of the ground, the mix of a reinforced concrete and steel structure, which included four staircases, required a staged construction programme for the main frame. The team also had to incorporate a cantilevered two-storey, fair-faced reinforced concrete wall for the sports hall – another unique aspect on the job that, along with the concrete and steel structure, required a focus on precise engineering.

High levels of precision were also required when putting in place the 11 W3 beams for the ceiling that spanned 18m across the roof of the main pool and also act as the main floor support for the fitness suite above . These huge precast beams were manufactured in Offaly and required a detailed logistical management plan just to get them to the site.

“The crane was critical to this process,” said Paul. “Absolute precision and the certainty of right first time was paramount, otherwise major structural and building damage would have been caused. The Health and Safety management throughout this process was vital to the successful outcome. This all required high levels of precision and, thankfully, all our detailed planning paid off.”

With the frame of the structure in place, Felix O’Hare & Co set about completing the wet and dry installations as well as completing the extensive cladding and glazing to the exterior.

“We brought BIM onto this project and it proved crucial in the end,” explained Paul.

“We have always valued the importance of comprehensive planning but BIM brings this to a new level. With the high levels of precision engineering and overall complexity of this building, it not only benefited us in the construction phase but will help in the future maintenance of this facility.”

Felix O’Hare, 88 Chancellors Road, Newry, County Down, BT35 8NG
T: 028 30261 134

Sub Contractors

Team work and co- ordination proved the key for JD McGeown Ltd at the new Down Leisure Centre in Downpatrick.

Once again teaming up with main contractor, Felix O’Hare, and mechanical contractor, Gilmore Engineering, JD McGeown played an integral role in this new £15.5m state-of-the- art facility for Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

“We completed Newry Leisure Centre for the same client with Felix O’Hare so we already had a good working relationship to build on,” said David Geddis, Senior Projects Manager at JD McGeown Ltd. “This was a complex project, with a lot of different factors involved, but thanks to the partnership approach adopted by everyone involved it ran smoothly.”

Down Leisure Centre includes facilities ranging from a six-lane swimming pool and learner pool with moveable floor through to an 85 station Wellness Technogym with cutting-edge technology and a luxury Vitality Health Suite.

JD McGeown Ltd provided a complete electrical installation package for the project, incorporating power infrastructure, lighting and fire and security requirements. The lighting included PIR controlled and emergency lighting solutions, while the fire and security systems incorporated fire alarms, disabled refuge and disabled toilet alarms, alarms, CCTV, door access systems and a pool alarm. The team was also responsible for the PA and induction loops in the building.

“In addition, we also installed all the data cabling required for the project along with lightening protection, along with the power and electrical systems for the two lifts and a number of the mechanical installations,” added David.

“JD McGeown has a highly experienced team in place, and working in partnership with forward-thinking contractors such as Felix O’Hare and Gilmore Engineering makes being involved in projects of this size a joy.”

Windsor Business Park, 16/18 Lower Windsor Avenue, Belfast BT9 7DW
T: 028 9068 1176

Unit 8, Lynwood Business Centre, Campsie Industrial Estate, Londonderry BT47 3XX
T: 028 7181 2185

MMUH Hostel Building, Eccles Street, Dublin 7
T: 00353(0)1691 7431


McMullan O’Donnell provided a complete external glazing solution for the impressive Down Leisure Centre in addition to the aluminium curtain walling and doors for the project.

The company is actively involved in commercial work across the UK and Ireland and Down Leisure Centre is the latest in a growing list of notable projects.

“We worked on Newry Leisure Centre with Felix O’Hare & Co Ltd so we already had a strong working relationship with the main contractor,” explained Michael McMullan, Head Estimator. “Down Leisure Centre offered us a few challenges, but we were able to overcome these and we’re delighted at the final outcome.”

Michael added, “Sections of the curtain walling had to be silicon sealed while the Okalux glass around the swimming pool was sourced from Germany, so this offered us some challenges. However, we pride ourselves on our ability to meet these challenges and that is why we have been more and more successful in the commercial sector.”

The company’s product range includes a range of PVCu windows and doors for the domestic/residential sector whilst also offering an extensive range of aluminium systems for the commercial sector.

McMullan O’Donnell delivers cost-effective and tailored solutions, striving to provide excellence in performance, security, long life, reliability and low maintenance. In the commercial sector, this has included successful projects in the leisure, education, office and retail sectors.

McMullan O’Donnell Ltd, 101 Drumflugh Road, Benburb, Co.Tyrone, BT71 7LF.
T: 028 3754 8791

Tandragee Roofing has built up a strong reputation for reliability on commercial projects, as demonstrated with the company’s latest work at Down Leisure Centre. Working closely with the main contractor, Felix O’Hare & Co Ltd, the talented team delivered a complete roofing package for this impressive new facility.

Tandragee Roofing fits a full range of roofing systems and offers a wide choice of services, from new build, roof repair and maintenance to hot melt systems, tanking systems, liquid plastic flooring and complete asphalt works. The company is an approved installer of high-performance roofing systems Decra, Green Roof Systems, Icopal, IKO roofing products, Firestone, Bauder, Moy, Kingspan products and Sika Liquid Roofing.

T: 028 3884 0576

Through Felix O’Hare & Co, Nu Screen Limited was pleased to be associated with the design of the new Down Leisure Centre by supplying and installing the internal glazing to the hardwood screens and also by supplying and installing the mirrors.

This is part of the comprehensive glazing solutions available from Nu Screen. In addition to plant, vehicle and agricultural glass, the company offers structural glass for internal and external applications such as room dividers, corridors, balconies and staircases.

T: 028 9756 3331 or 0797 1469 126

Oak CWE Ltd was appointed to design, supply and install the swimming pools and vitality pool filtration and treatment installations at Down Leisure Centre.

The company also carried out the installation of the steam room, sauna and heated loungers. In the Learner and Vitality pools, Oak CWE was responsible for the water features. Oak CWE is delighted to have been involved with this prestigious project and wishes the Council every success in the future.

T: 028 9085 4167

Construction Joints Ltd completed concrete repairs to the columns in the main swimming pool at Down Leisure Centre. With over 40 years’ experience, the company has become the first choice for specialist services such as concrete cutting, coring, crack stitching, waterproofing, jointing and concrete repairs to flooring, facades and much more.

Working with the building and civil engineering industry across the UK and Ireland, the company bring solutions to both the business and private sector.

T: 02890 779 022

The partnership approach of Gilmore Engineering Services Ltd helped to ensure the Down Leisure Centre project remained right on track.

While this was one of the largest projects completed by the company, the experienced team played an integral part in the successful planning and installation of the mechanical systems at this state-of-the-art leisure centre.

“Co-ordination proved the biggest challenge on this project, but we worked closely with main contractor, Felix O’Hare, and electrical contractor. JD McGeown Ltd to put the necessary planning in place. As this was the first gas project in Downpatrick, we also worked closely with Phoenix Natural Gas on the co- ordination of the gas supplies to the site.”

A key element of this preparation work was the implementation of Building Information Modelling (BIM). “BIM is essential on projects of this nature and I’d say we were able to iron out about 95% of potential issues using this technology,” added Andy.

“That makes a significant difference when you start work on site and are up against a strict timescale.”

The mechanical services installed by Gilmore Engineering Services ranged from the gas-fired central heating, chilled water system, supply and extract solutions, rainwater harvesting, pool filtration and the sanitary ware package.

T: 028 4355 1007

Beyond Signage completed the full internal and external signage package for the fantastic new Down Leisure Centre in Downpatrick. The external signage package consisted of 2m-high, built-up bronze-anodised aluminium lettering with LED face illumination along with a fabricated and illuminated totem sign to welcome visitors to the centre.

Internally, Beyond Signage manufactured and installed beautiful bespoke bronze- anodised directional panels with laser-cut opal acrylic lettering and all braille and tactile door names and wayfinding signage.

All the signage was totally manufactured in house by the company’s skilled team of metal fabricators and is designed in such a way as to complement the excellent finish achieved by the main contractor.

Operating from 8000sqft of manufacturing space, Beyond Signage is one of Ireland’s most diverse sign manufacturers and installers, offering a complete service that includes consultation, manufacturing and installation.

T: 028 9336 2651