A North East company has invested £700,000 in creating two new, state-of-the-art pools as part of its on-going commitment to helping young people learn to swim.
PaddlePod will initially see the creation of two purpose-built pools, which will both be open this autumn. The company has taken over two sites – one at Silverbirch Drive, Newcastle which will become PaddlePod @ Newcastle and the other the former Clarks Bakery at New York Road, Shiremoor which will be PaddlePod @ NorthTyneside – with the transformation currently underway.
Along with the two pools, each facility will offer a soft play area and café, which can be used by families who have children swimming or as a pop-in for anyone in the area, along with modern changing rooms and comfortable viewing galleries.
As part of the project, PaddlePod has worked with regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers to secure a £500,000 investment from the North East Growth Capital Fund Supported by the European Regional Development Fund.
Dan Cooper, director at Ryecroft Glenton, advised PaddlePod during the investment process.
The scheme is the brainwave of Nemo Swimming and SwimNE founder and entrepreneur, Phil Groom, who first had the idea five years ago.
“We are very grateful to the venues we have been based in over the past years which have served us very well,” he said.
“But now we have been able to start with a blank canvas and ensure that PaddlePod takes into account everything that parents have told us over the years would make a difference.
“We recognise that parents want ways to keep their other children entertained while the classes are taking place and also want first class café facilities, along with being able to park close by.
“Hopefully we’ve developed a concept that will tick every box, not just for families who are bringing their children to learn to swim but also as a real hub for the community.”
Phil, a former swimming coach, set up SwimNE in 2006 for adults and children, followed by Nemo Swimming in 2009 for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers to learn to swim.
Both companies have enjoyed huge success, with more than 2500 children a week taking part in classes across SwimNE and Nemo Swimming.
The new venture will see PaddlePod Newcastle, near Gosforth Park, offering a 25m x 8m pool and Shiremoor a 15m x 7m pool, with both offering state-of-the-art facilities.
Phil, from Gosforth, has also set up a second company, Watertight Developments, which is managing both projects, with plans to roll out the concept in the future and create further pools.
“We have already earmarked some potential other sites that we would look at in the future,” he said.
Phil believes the new venture will also serve a wider purpose.
“We know that a lot of new parents might feel isolated and the idea would be that our café facilities will stand alone, so anyone can use them,” he said.
“We also know that parents who have other young children find it hard to keep them amused while their siblings are enjoying a lesson, which is why we’ve created the activities areas.
“We’ve used all of our years of expertise to create what we believe is the perfect facilities in which to learn to swim, but also as a community hub.”
Jane Siddle, investment executive at NEL Fund Managers, adds: “Swim NE has a very strong regional brand, a long track record of success and a clear idea of how the business is going to evolve in the coming years.
“It’s exciting to be involved with such an innovative project and we’re sure the new pools will make a big splash with customers young and old.”
Dan Cooper, director at Ryecroft Glenton, says: “We have a good relationship with NEL and knew that the investment options they provide would fit well with PaddlePod’s needs.
“PaddlePod will be offering an enhanced experience for family members of all ages and we’re very pleased to be working with the business as it brings its innovative new leisure concept to life.”
The North East Growth Capital Fund has been designed to create around 790 jobs in more than 70 regional firms over the life of the programme and offers unsecured investments of up to £500,000 to established businesses looking to realise their growth potential.
NEL Fund Managers is actively looking for potential investees from Tyne & Wear, Durham and Northumberland to put their investment ideas forward.
The overarching £120m North East Fund will provide financial support for more than 600 businesses, creating around 3,500 jobs and delivering a legacy of up to £80m for further investment into the region.