The iconic Richard Dunn Sports Centre, due to be demolished later this year, has been listed by Historic England.

The heritage body described the cavernous domed building, which closed as a recreation center in 2019, as a “bold, accomplished design for a local 1970s recreation”.

The inscription casts doubt on the future of the site, as it means the building is now among the most protected structures in the city.

Built in 1974, it is one of the few post-war buildings in the city to have been classified as a historic monument.

The Twentieth Century Society, which campaigns for the preservation of buildings constructed after 1914, has applied to Historic England for the building to be listed.

Today the organization announced that this application has been successful and it is now a Grade II listed building.

The Twentieth Century Society said the building, famous for its popular water slides, had “bold architecture” and was one of the first buildings to be designed using computer technology.

The sports center under construction

Named after the Bradford-born boxer famous for fighting Muhammad Ali, Odsal’s Richard Dunn Center closed in November 2019, coinciding with the opening of the £17.5million Sedbergh Leisure Center complex in proximity.

Initial plans called for demolition of the Bradford Council-owned building to begin in early summer 2020.

However, shortly after this announcement, the Covid 19 pandemic began.

It was then that a new use was found for the building – an emergency morgue in case the existing facilities in the neighborhood were overwhelmed.

Although this use was fortunately never necessary, the site was used during the pandemic as a stopover by the Covid-19 test center and an “electrostatic biocide spray station” for vehicles to be disinfected in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

Demolition has been repeatedly delayed since then and the center was used for filming last month.

It is unclear what the future of the building will be now that it has listed status.

Permission to demolish Richard Dunn was granted in February 2020, and Council had said it was extremely inefficient to heat.

However, a listed status makes it difficult to obtain permission to demolish a building. In recent years, Bradford Council has refused planning permission for the demolition of a number of listed buildings, citing their historical significance.

39 archival images of the Richard Dunn Sports Center in Bradford

Bradford Council had announced plans to redevelop the site once the building was demolished. Originally the plan was to sell the site, and in 2018 the authority began marketing the 6.8 hectare site as Odsal District Retail Center in a brochure which was given to international developers during of a real estate conference in Cannes.

But in early 2020, the Council said it would retain the land, which it considered a “strategic site for the wider district”.

The center’s outdoor bike path has been replaced with a new facility at the Wyke Sports Village, which will open soon.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Before listing the building, Historic England consulted Trevor Skempton, the architect who designed the leisure centre, and Dr Otto Saumarez Smith, a professor of architectural history who specializes in the history of leisure centres.

They both praised the building, with Mr Skempton saying it was designed to have “an intentional theatrical look to the unique open space, visible from the access deck, which enhanced the experience athletic”.

Bradford Council had written to Historic England raising a number of issues with the building including ‘the high running costs when in use; a large maintenance log; an inadequacy of the existing design in relation to the various current standards of access and energy efficiency; ongoing building mothballing costs; the budgetary assumption that capital receipts from the sale of this site would contribute to the cost of replacement facilities; and the likely high costs if the building had to be reconnected to utilities. »

Summarizing the list, Historic England said: ‘The Richard Dunn Sports Center is a bold and accomplished design for a local 1970s recreation.

“Its impressive truss roof with marquee is particularly noteworthy.

“Designed at a time when architectural expression of the building type was the exception rather than the rule, this example stands out in the national context and has survived well, with its fully legible design intent.

“Listing is therefore recommended at Grade II.”

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He goes on to describe the building as “a sophisticated and architecturally striking structure that provided a dramatic setting for the sporty layout within.”

It exhibits clear engineering virtuosity” and “the main features survive well with the overall form and architectural intent remaining clear”.

A spokesperson for the Bradford Civic Society said: ‘The decision to award List status to Richard Dunn is interesting and surprising, particularly as permission had already been given for its demolition.

“This means Richard Dunn is now just one of the few mid-20th century listed buildings in Bradford, alongside Sunwin House.

“The Bradford Civic Society has increasingly stressed the need to recognize the contribution that 20th century architecture has made to Bradford, as evidenced by our debates on High Point and our upcoming event on post-war architecture in the city center. There is certainly a growing appetite for such buildings.

“The decision is somewhat surprising given that Historic England rejected a similar listing application for Arndale House on Market Street which our experts believe is a very compelling candidate for protected status.”

A spokesman for Bradford Council said: “The government’s decision that the former Richard Dunn Sports Center should be Grade II listed has just been published.

“We will need to examine the findings of the report in detail and work with the government to see what the next steps are.”


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