THE fightback to bring people back to Flintshire’s leisure centres has taken its first step.

A four-year contract to improve Deeside Leisure Centre has been signed between Alliance Leisure and Flintshire Council.

On Monday the Leader reported how last year visits to Deeside, Flint and Connah’s Quay centres were down by more than 125,000 on figures for 2008/9.

But plans to revitalise the site, thanks to a “huge” investment, could herald a new era for Deeside, according to the council’s executive member for leisure and health and safety.

Cllr Dennis Hutchinson said: “I’m delighted. Alliance Leisure has some excellent ideas for the way forward. It is a huge investment on their part.

“This will go a long way to turning these figures around. It is very exciting. It is a new era and a boost.”

Sarah Watts, managing director of Alliance Leisure, added: “This is one of the first partnerships with a council that establishes a long-term contract with a view to gaining benefits across all the amenities.

“Our aim is to support Flintshire Council over the next four years, to ensure that developments run smoothly and to budget, and that each project is an outstanding success.

“The first redevelopment at Deeside Leisure Centre will transform the facility into a hub of activity for the community.”

The first step will be to build six five-a-side football pitches which could be up and running by September.

Meanwhile, an 80-station family fitness zone will be built on the first floor of an old nightclub.

The final phase is the rejuvenation of the old ice rink which will include a climbing wall, high ropes course and a park for skateboarding, inline skates and BMX bikes.

Ian Budd, director of lifelong learning, said: “The redevelopment of Deeside Leisure Centre is a great example of how centres can redevelop existing buildings to provide fantastic, modern facilities for the local community, along with generating additional income by maximising usage of all the space.

“It is important in today’s throw-away world that we start to utilise the buildings that housed old facilities to create new opportunities.”

Calls had been made to investigate the alarming drop in visits which was blamed on poor weather in January and February and a six-week closure to Flint’s swimming pool.