RICHARD Dunn Sports Centre has shut its doors to customers for the final time.

The centre, which was opened in 1978, officially closed for business last night - with all the leisure facilities being replaced by the new £17.5 million Sedbergh Leisure Centre a short distance away.

And there on the last day was Eileen Ayres, who has worked at Richard Dunns from before it even opened to the public.

The centre was named after famous Bradford boxer Richard Dunn and over its 41 year history has hosted numerous sports events, election counts and been enjoyed by countless Bradford residents.

With Sedbergh opening today, with its first swimming sessions at 8am, Richard Dunn will be shut in preparation for its eventual demolition.

Mrs Ayres, receptionist at Richard Dunn, locked the front door when the centre closed. She told the Telegraph & Argus that she first came to Richard Dunn several weeks before it opened, and had a job as a leisure attendant aged 23.

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In the 41 years since then she has been a lifeguard, a trampoline coach and a receptionist.

She said: “When I came here this place was super, super modern - state of the art. Now we’re moving to Sedbergh it is great to be in a state of the art facility again. The younger staff are so excited about the move to a new, modern sports centre.

“I have a lot of memories of here, a lot of staff I’ve met and become friends with over the years. We’ve had a lot of events here, international events that have taken place here over the years. When Richard Dunn was new a lot of people wanted to hold these events here. Now we have a new leisure centre I hope some of these events come back to Bradford.

“I started at 23, I said I was just coming for a year. Here we are 41 years later.”

When asked if she thinks it is right to be closing down Richard Dunn she said: “In my heart no, but realistically it has to go. It is run down - it would be way too expensive to run or refurbish. You can’t keep putting money into old things.”

Mrs Ayres, who was raised on Whetley Lane and lives just yards from Sedbergh, said when Richard Dunn first opened, people had not seen anything like it. More used to small, old swimming pool buildings - the sight of Richard Dunn’s impressive pools, and later thrilling waterslides, led to huge crowds coming to the centre. She added: “There was no competition nearby. Every weekend people were queuing all down the ramp and down towards Odsal to come to swim here.”

She said she was slightly disappointed that the new centre did not include slides, but was still impressed with the new facilities.

After closing up she said: “After 41 years it’s not just a job, it’s your life.”

Phil Barker, Bradford Council’s Assistant Director for Place, said: “I know that for many Bradford residents and visitors to the area Richard Dunn Sports Centre will hold many fond memories. We thought it was only fitting that Eileen was the person to lock up the centre to the public for the last time.

“It has been a great leisure facility for the district but we now welcome the opening of the Sedbergh Leisure Centre which I am sure many residents will enjoy for years to come.”