Believe it or not, the Merrion Centre used to be an integral part of Leeds. In its heyday, the centre housed a fairly large range of entertainment outlets. The bowling alley is still there – though desperately in need of some TLC – as are the shops, but what you might not know is that the Merrion Centre used to be home to an Odeon Cinema, the first in Leeds in the 1930s.
The interior of the cinema remains untouched other than the seating and screen and the projection equipment the cinema remains a 1970’s mural with all the original cinema posters still hung. The single screen was a fairly large venue, with two-tiered seating, and was shut in the late 1970s.The site only operated as a cinema for about 13 years before it was closed.
Where busy shoppers now draw out money from a couple of cash machines was the main entry into a cinema that could accommodate nearly 1,000 film fans. The doors have now been boarded up but remain, padlocked, behind the wall holding the cash machines.
The cinema occupies a space above the current Home Bargains store and, if you take the stairs in the Merrion Centre to the upper level, you can still see a second set of doors near an entrance into the Merrion Centre car park.
The old cinema at the Leeds Merrion Centre could be about to bounce back – as the UK’s first indoor trampoline park.
A bid has been submitted to convert the empty building into a leisure facility incorporating approximately 6,500 sq ft of trampoline space, capable of accommodating around 200 people at a time. A foam pit would also be available for more experienced users to practice moves already learned on the main surface. Similar ventures already exist in America but, to date, there is nothing of comparable scale available in the UK.
If approved, the new trampoline park would be operated by new firm Gravity, which hopes to offer the facilities to the public for general use, for innovative games such as 3D Dodge ball, for training for customers of all ages, for aerobics and for private parties and to corporate clients for team-building events.
As the application does not involve any change to the exterior of the building and as the old cinema would continue to be used for leisure purposes, planners have only been asked to determine if converting the building into a trampoline park would be lawful.
Although it confirmed the application to Leeds City Council yesterday, a spokesman for Gravity was unwilling to elaborate on the scale of investment or to speculate on the number of new jobs which might be created while negotiations over the terms of the lease and planning consent remained active.
Although this would create a completely new phenomenon for Leeds it will be destroying a hidden landmark. Leeds could reopen the cinema to the public to create a wider spread knowledge the history of the city and open the eyes of the younger generation to what Leeds was like before they were around.
So the next time your drawing out some well-earned cash will you stop and think about what is just metres away hidden from the public eye but still a 1970’s landmark