Performers will turn Queen's Leisure Centre into new dance and theatre venue
PART of a city leisure centre is to be demolished, allowing a Derby dance group to expand its venue.
Squash courts at the back of Queen's Leisure Centre will be turned into a new theatre and dance studio by neighbours Déda.
The group will also build a new conference facility and glass atrium linking both buildings.
Work on the £412,000 project is due to start in April 2014, when the leisure centre will become vacant following the opening of a multi-sports arena in Pride Park.
It is anticipated the new theatre and studio will be ready by September 2014.
Déda announced yesterday that the plans were able to go ahead after it secured a £282,000 Arts Council grant.
The rest of the project will be funded by Déda cash reserves, charitable trusts and foundations and with support from the University of Derby.
Michaela Butter, chair of Déda's board of trustees, said it was great news.
She said: "We are delighted that Arts Council England have recognised the value and ambition of our proposals and have taken the strategic decision to support our expansion plans with the grant awarded through a competitive bidding process.
"This support demonstrates the Arts Council's confidence in the organisation and we will now be forging ahead with plans for this exciting development."
Déda director Stephen Munn said the scheme would allow for the existing theatre to be improved by expanding the stage area – increasing Déda's scope for staging larger-scale dance productions.
He added it would also be the base for a planned BA degree in dance, which is under discussion between Déda and the University of Derby.
"This expansion is therefore an important part of the organisation's future development as part of our overall strategy to reduce our reliance on funding from the public purse," Mr Munn said.
Peter Knott, regional director of Arts Council England, is confident Déda will use the grant well.
He said: "This is a clear example of how arts organisations in Derby are really doing all they can to diversify their income, strengthen their business models and work in wider partnerships."
The leisure centre and its sister centre at Moorways are due to be vacated when the council opens its new multi-use sports arena at Pride Park, complete with velodrome and netball courts, by late 2014.
The Queen's and Moorways swimming pools, however, will remain open until a new Olympic-sized swimming pool is built at Riverlights.