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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 06 March 2006

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All systems go for Olympic pool

WORK is to start on building an Olympic size swimming pool in Liverpool after the city council approved a £15 million construction contract.  Building firm Gleeson Building Limited has now got the go-ahead to start work immediately on building the 50 metre facility at Picton Leisure Centre in Wavertree.  The state of the art pool will be one of only a handful of Olympic size pools in the UK.  The majority of funding, £11 million, coming from the city council, with a further £4m of Lottery cash from Sport England.

Council leader Warren Bradley said:- "It will be a valuable facility not just for our own elite swimmers, but also the local community including recreational groups, mothers and toddlers and schools.  It will also be used by up and coming junior swimmers who are rising through the ranks and are potential Olympic and Commonwealth medal winners of the future. Who knows, this facility may even create heroes and heroines in the pool at the 2012 London Olympic Games!  Liverpool is one of the most successful sporting cities in the country and it is only right that we have the best training facilities for our athletes.  We already have first class athletics, football, gymnastics and tennis facilities in Liverpool, and the pool will allow us to bid for national swimming championships so that people can cheer on our athletes in their home city.  We are delighted that Sport England has pledged its support for the project, to help us make this dream a reality,"

Allerton's Olympic and Commonwealth medallist Stephen Parry, who faced a round trip of almost 100 miles per day to train in Stockport during his time as a competitor,  is backing the new pool:- "I am absolutely thrilled that this scheme has got the go ahead.  Liverpool has a strong tradition of producing fine sportsmen and women, and the 50 metre pool will mean the swimming stars of the future will be able to train locally without facing the additional hassle of having to travel in order to train."

Picton Sports Centre is the largest council operated facility in the city, with more than 500,000 visits every year. 

The scheme will replace the worn out 80 year old pool, which had to close because of structural problems.  The proposal also includes a 20 metre/4 lane training pool, 400 seat spectator arena and refurbishment of the existing changing rooms and Lifestyles fitness suite.

Stewart Kellett, Regional Director of Sport England North West, said:- "We are extremely pleased to be able to invest such a substantial amount into the development of a 50m pool for Liverpool.  As an organisation, we are committed to increasing participation in physical activity and sport across the North West and the likes of Picton Leisure Centre and a 50m swimming pool will play a huge part in helping us to achieve this.  Not only will it be a world-class training and competition facility, but a place for us to nurture our young talent and somewhere for the local community to enjoy."

Preparatory work has already been carried out on the scheme, with completion expected in June 2007 in time for Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture.

Old Swan turns over new leaf!

ONE of Liverpool's oldest libraries is proving popular following work to give it a huge facelift.  Old Swan library opened in 1913 as a reading room, with books originally brought in by hand cart from nearby Lister Drive library. An extension was added in the 1960's to create a children's library.

The new look building includes new fixtures and fittings, self-service points so people can take out and return books themselves and a 'Surfzone' with access to state of the art computers with free internet and email facilities.
The library receives more than 120,000 visits per year and loans over 80,000 books.  And the new chapter is proving popular with customers. Comments made by visitors have included "wonderful", "fantastic", "wow" and "very posh".

Council leader Warren Bradley said:- "Liverpool's libraries are recognised by the government as the best in the country because of the work we are doing to make them welcoming places for the local community.  This refurbishment has created a first-class learning facility for both young and old in Old Swan, and the new computer suite will mean anyone can access the latest technology for free."

It is the 6th library in Liverpool to be refurbished in the last 4 years.

Rib-tickling lunch at Town Hall

THE TOWN Hall's sides will be splitting when Liverpool's top funny men and women pay a visit to the Lord Mayor.  Ken Dodd, Ricky Tomlinson, Pauline Daniels and Stan Boardman are just some of the 'gag'-gle of stars invited to lunch with Liverpool's Lord Mayor, Councillor Alan Dean.  More than 30 guests have been invites along to the event so that the city can honour their outstanding contribution to comedy.

Councillor Dean said:- "Liverpool is famous for its great Scouse sense of humour. It's wonderful that our home grown talent are coming together, especially in this cultural year of performance. 

Throughout 2006, Liverpool will be celebrating this city's amazing track record in all areas of performance, and comedy fits into this perfectly.

Ken Dodd and Stan Boardman have been making people laugh for decades and on Tuesday they will be joined by other great talents including Pauline Daniels and Ricky Tomlinson whose success has made him a household name. 

I'm really looking forward to next week's event as it's a chance for me to say 'thank you' to those who put laughter in our lives."

On the menu is BBQ rib-ticklers, cheese and tickle sandwiches, pulled leg of lamb followed by deadpan-cakes and gooseberry fool. And, to wash it down, there's joke-a-cola and punch-line.

Freeman of the city, Ken Dodd, said:- "Merseyside should be renamed Myrth-iside because of all the wonderful talent we have produced. Some of my greatest comedy heroes are from this beautiful city,  Arthur Askey, Rob Wilton and Ted Ray. 

It's wonderful that the Lord Mayor invited us all to Liverpool's number one house, and I'm looking forward to a hilarious afternoon full of laughter and happiness with old and new comics.  And you never know, we may inspire the Lord Mayor to crack a few jokes of his own!"
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