AMBITIOUS plans to transform Preston’s Guild Hall have been taken to the next Level.
The latest phase in the complete overhaul of the city centre venue has been unveiled, and involves creating a 10-pin bowling alley, a nine-hole crazy golf course, karaoke booths, a sports bar and dining room, along with a new entrance from Lord Street.
Architects at the Frank Whittle Partnership (FWP) have submitted plans to convert the basement and ground floor levels of the Guild Hall into LeVeL - a “boutique bowling leisure facility” - hoping to create a destination similar to Manchester’s Printworks.
Guild Hall owner Simon Rigby said the venue was to become “one enormous oasis for the arts and leisure”.
He said: “The bowling is going to be off the scale with what they can do with lighting now.
“It’s going to be fantastic for families and then, at night, if you want some entertainment, it’s going to provide that.”
He said planners and architects had worked “long and hard” on the project, to “bring something forward which is going to greatly enhance the offering of the Guild Hall and Preston as well”.
Mr Rigby said LeVeL would be open late at weekends - possibly until 3am - and said: “These places are as busy at two in the morning as they are at two in the afternoon.
“What we are hoping to do is, during the day, to attract very much a family audience.
“Two lanes at either side are going to be private function rooms, so if you have a team-building event or a party, you can shut that off and it’s a private function room.
“I think it’s going to be absolutely fantastic.”
The project is expected to “add millions” into the multi-million pound investment already in the Guild Hall, and Mr Rigby said he hoped visitors would spend time enjoying what the venue had to offer, aside from theatre shows.
Seb Salisbury, FWP architect, said: “10-pin bowling and the crazy golf and other indoor sports create an exciting new offering within Preston city centre and help to further establish the reputation of the Guild Hall as a destination leisure attraction.”
A new entrance for the building is proposed for Lord Street – directly facing the Bus Station, where a Youth Zone and piazza are being built – opening up the Guild Hall and replacing the existing underpass.
Mr Salisbury said: “Creating a new entrance opens the Guild Hall up to the exciting transformation of the bus station and the revitalisation of the public realm in this historic area of Preston.
“The vision is to create a vibrant cultural hub of entertainment, arts and leisure based on Manchester’s ultra-successful Printworks destination, but with the added attraction of live entertainment in the Guild Hall’s two theatres.”
Plans also involve transforming the wall on the side of the Guild Centre, and Mr Salisbury said: “There’s a nine-metre high red brick wall with few windows creating an imposing and uninviting façade with little character and no connection for the general public.
“Our plans transform this into an inviting, welcoming entrance to an exciting, new, family-orientated venue within the city centre.”
FWP has also drawn up a vision to remodel the venue’s frontage - creating a new entrance with a modern atrium that is hoped to breathe new life into the building’s underused first-floor balcony.
Paul Walton, director of consultancy PWA Planning, said: “What to do with the former supermarket site has been a conundrum for some time, but by securing a change of use from retail to leisure we can help bring this building back to life and give it a bright future.
“The designs by FWP show how the building can be enhanced internally and externally to boost the city’s economy and improve the look of the area.”