A SPORTS centre which has been running for almost 20 years could close as civic chiefs consider its future.

Meadowside Leisure Centre in Whiteley has been operating at a loss in recent years due to "competing fitness facilities" that have opened in the area.

A report to members of Winchester City Council's health and environment policy committee said there are 13 other gyms within a 15-minute drive of the town.

Closing and selling the Whiteley Way site is among four options outlined to councillors.

The benefits of this include the removal of running costs for WCC and the financial boost from the sale, however, this would mean Whiteley Town Council (WTC) require another office space, the loss of changing rooms for the grass sports pitches and the loss of a community facility.

The report from Cllr Malcolm Prince, cabinet member for sport leisure and communities, which went before the committee meeting last night after the Chronicle went to press, said: "Meadowside Leisure Centre is reasonably well used and is located next to Whiteley shopping centre. In recent years it has been operating at a loss due to competing fitness facilities opening in the area.

"The operator contract (with Places Leisure) to manage this facility will cease in January 2021.

"The leisure centre would require investment and a change of facility mix to operate commercially and compete with budget gyms and newer leisure facilities in the Whiteley area."

Other options for the centre, which opened in 2000, include handing over the running and management to WTC, tendering the management of the facility for a five-year period or tender for a 10 to 15-year period, with a new operator providing investment to enhance the offering.

It is noted in the report that WTC has "expressed an interest in taking over the building and/or its management subject to terms and associated costs".

Cllr Mike Evans, WTC chairman, said: "It would be a great loss. It is a community building and used by many people. We would not want to lose it.

"The building itself is not the best and there could be options to improve it in the future.

"With Whiteley expanding, we have to look at all options. We would not want to lose any community facility."

Meanwhile, city councillors have been advised that none of the four options explored to build a four-court sports hall in the southern parishes should be progressed.

Officers have studied the case for extending Meadowside at a cost of £2.8million, building a new facility at Meadowside for £11.8million, a £3.8million extension at Swanmore College of Technology and a new facility at Mill Lane in Wickham for £4.7million.

However, revenue projections failed to deliver substantial gains for the local authority.

"Based on this evidence and in affordability terms, none of the options deliver a positive outcome for the council, largely due to the absence of any funding to offset the capital costs," says Cllr Prince's report.

"None of the options will deliver a strong enough management fee return to the Council to meet the level of borrowing required for any of the builds; the annual average net cost to the council ranges from £120,000 per annum to over £400,000 per annum.

"The major development in North Whiteley will include a new secondary school currently planned to open in 2024 (depending on build rates) which will have leisure facilities, including a 4 court sports hall and 2 full size artificial turf pitches. These new facilities will be available for community use."