LEISURE centres across South Lakeland are being revamped as bosses embark on a top-to-bottom rethink to get more people through the doors.

Lakes Leisure lost 46 per cent of its funding as a result of local council cuts and is having to find ‘smarter’ ways of working to appeal to new customers.

One idea is already under way, as Kendal youngsters have been invited to design a new leisure centre which could be built within six years.

Users of centres in Kendal, Ulverston and Windermere will be able to take advantage of new offers and better access to facilities this year.

Derek Jones, Lakes Leisure's new business development manager, said: “It’s about doing things more efficiently without losing services, quality and standards. We have to be smarter and look at other ways of generating revenue.

“We are completely reviewing how we operate to get as many people into our leisure facilities as possible, using the Olympics legacy as a platform and understanding the customers that make up South Lakeland.”

Mr Jones, who has turned around the fortunes of leisure centres in his native Merseyside, is keen to get more over-60s – the majority of South Lakeland’s population – using the centres, while measures to entice other groups will be introduced.

A new ‘Get Active’ 20 per cent discount card launches in February to reward regular users of swimming, fitness and gym facilities.

And full-time students, income support recipients, Blue Badge members and Armed Forces personnel will get discounts of up to 50 per cent.

Mr Jones said people’s perception of leisure centres and cost were the main reasons some stayed away.

But he said his changes were designed to boost access to more activities, while facilities could be converted to create extra space and make the centres’ provision more flexible.

Mr Jones continued: “A lot of over-60s are very careful about budgets. We’re trying to make it more affordable.

“It’s about getting people to feel good about themselves and about living in South Lakeland, improving lives and making sure people are more active, more often.

“We want to break down barriers and make people realise that modern leisure facilities are there for everyone.”

Mr Jones also said he would be working with the NHS, schools, social services and others to discuss how leisure activities could be taken out of the centres and into communities.

He explained: “We have to get out into local schools, church halls and playing fields – there are people out there who want to be the next Jess Ennis and we have to support them.”

It is hoped that the ‘design a leisure centre’ competition will get youngsters thinking about what they want from a future leisure facility in Kendal.

The competition is open to ages five to 19 until January 31, with the best entries from three categories each winning a mountain bike.

Entry forms are available from Lakes Leisure Kendal and have also been sent to local schools.