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Venue spotlight: Sheffield’s Ponds Forge

Taking a deeper dive into the capacity at Sheffield’s Ponds Forge venue.

Sheffield: Home to Jarvis Cocker, Alex Turner, Michael Palin, the longest running football team in the world and this month’s venue profile, Ponds Forge International Sports Centre.

Opened in 1991 and operated by the not-for-profit organisation Sheffield City Trust (SCT), Ponds Forge doesn’t immediately strike the casual Googler as anything but a swimming arena. But scratch the surface a little deeper and you’ll find a venue ready and equipped for a variety of events, be it public or corporate, small or large.

Ponds Forge took its name from a steel works that once occupied the site, and a seven-foot-high anvil has been left next to the venue as a tip of the hat to its history.

The venue underwent a £3m refurbishment in 2008 that included a refit of the competition pool and members’ areas, as well as a revamp of the swimming reception and improved security. It is one of nine 50-metre, Olympic-sized swimming pools in the UK and though, yes, it mainly plays host to high calibre sporting events, Ponds Forge has also been quietly making a name for itself as a go-to for conferences, exhibitions and even broadcast – Channel 4’s 2003- 2006 series The Games filmed a good portion of the show at the venue.

This past autumn, the venue hosted two large-scale corporate events: the La Salle Education National Conference and Exhibition and the Meadowhall 25th Anniversary Dinner. Ponds Forge also regularly welcomes bodies like British Gymnastics, British Athletics and the USA Diving Team.

“The venue was almost perfect for what we needed and I don’t think we could have run the event any better, anywhere else in the country,” says British Gymnastics’ Gemma Barton. “We really appreciated their support in the build-up to the event, the marketing, box office, social media plugs – and to turn up to a venue that has a ‘can-do’ attitude was so refreshing.”

There are several halls and rooms available for events at Ponds Forge, the second largest being the International Hall. With 1,520sqm of space and a 1,700 capacity, the Hall can be transformed for business functions, conferences, exhibitions, trade fairs, fashion shows, gala dinners and, of course, big-time sporting events.

The International Swimming Pool is also available for event hire, with a theatre that can hold up to 2,600 people. And for more traditional corporate events, The Skyline Suite is a self-contained event room complete with an adjoining bar and rooftop access.

This year, Ponds Forge has lined up an impressive schedule of events: in February, the BUCS Nationals took place, which resulted in a three-year deal to host the event in Sheffield for 2017, 2018 and 2019; this month, both the World Snooker Championship Qualifiers and the British Masters and Senior Age Group Championships (both British Swimming events) will take place; and in June and July, the British Diving Championships and the ASA National Age Group Diving events will take place at Ponds Forge.

Ponds Forge and SCT have also joined forces with the government initiative This Girl Can, hosting events that encourage women and girls to get more active and participate in sports.

“Ponds Forge is one of the city’s most prestigious sports facilities and is an excellent city centre venue, for everyone from children learning to swim through to Olympic-level athletes,” says Isobel Bowler, cabinet member for neighbourhoods at Sheffield City Council.

For a unique and unexpected venue for events, Sheffield’s Ponds Forge is undoubtedly one to take a deeper dive into.

 

This feature originally appeared in the April edition of Access All Areas, out now.