The exciting event saw dance performances and martial arts demonstrations inside the new centre, opened as part of Reading Borough Council’s £40 million investment in its leisure facilities.
The old Rivermead Leisure Centre, situated just opposite, where demolition began on Monday.
Although the doors of the centre already opened earlier this month, a celebration was held to mark the event which saw a Taekwondo master split a brick with his fist.
Fellow Thames Valley Pro Taekwondo members split wooden panels and exhibiting their skills to the audience, with Nemesis martial arts also providing a demonstration.
Guests also viewed performances from two groups from the Susan Pheby School of Dance.
Spirits were not dampened by the fact that a setback with earthworks has meant that the new swimming pools won’t open until 2024.
The opening was attended by lead councillors, officials from Greenwich Leisure Ltd, the council’s leisure services contractor and Rowan McKellar, the Olympic and world class rowing athlete.
Commenting on the new site, Councillor Tony Page (Labour, Abbey), mayor of Reading, said: “The council continues to invest in improved leisure and sport facilities across the borough, notwithstanding all the financial restrictions we’ve had on us during the years of austerity.
“We the council are extremely proud to have worked with GLL and others to deliver this centre, and more is to come with the swimming pool, but also the new facilities at Palmer Park and the community pool there, alongside improvements at Meadway and the South Reading Leisure Centre, and today we celebrate the opening of our much anticipated flagship centre.”
Ms McKellar expressed hopes that the world class athletes of the future could get their start at the centre, as she got her professional career start in rowing as a member of the Leander Club in Remenham.
She said: “It’s thanks to improving and developing facilities in the areas that make [success] possible.
“It’s exciting to see whose lives this centre will change.
“You never know, in 19 years there could be an athlete somewhere saying they began their journey at Reading Rivermead Leisure Centre.”
Ruth McEwan (Labour, Church), lead councillor for public health said: “It’s wonderful, it’s great for the town and a really exciting opportunity.
“The council officers have worked with GLL to really promote public health to citizens.
“It’s a good opportunity for people to come and exercise, it’s great that families are able to use the facility.
“I love the soft play, it’s really welcoming for families to come and use it.”
Councillor Adele Barnett-Ward (Labour, Thames), lead councillor for leisure and culture said: “It’s so fantastic to have it open, a huge amount of work has gone in.
“There have been stumbling blocks along the way, there was a delay to the admin needed for the pool, I’m so delighted that hasn’t derailed the entire project.
“It has taken some seriously creative problem solving from the council, GLL and Pelikaan [the construction contractor] to work out how to part open this centre, and I’m so proud that we have, it has been busy from day one, it has been packed, people are really enjoying it and the feedback has been universally positive.
“And what’s been so brilliant is that residents are understanding, they appreciate what happened with the pool is out of our control and they are really glad that we’ve still pressed forward and opened everything else and they’re looking forward to the pool next year.”
Commenting on the displays, she added: “They were fantastic! Back in a former life, I used to do and teach karate and I was watching the martial arts thinking maybe I should do that again!
“They were so good and the standard that we have here is amazing.”
The new centre opened on Monday, July 17.
The event happened as demolition takes place on the old Rivermead Leisure Complex on the same site.
The demolition of the complex has been met with some sadness as the Rivermead Indoor bowls club had to close down after 35 years as facilities for bowls have not been provided in the new centre.
The ceremony was held on Tuesday, July 25 to coincide with the 30th birthday of GLL.