FLOOD water took only 45 minutes to cause £60,000 worth of damage and undo years of hard work by volunteers at a leisure centre.

Staff and managers at the Spectrum Leisure Centre, in Willington, County Durham, have been left counting the cost after several inches of water flooded their sports hall, store room, kitchen, reception area and multi-purpose room on Thursday afternoon.

The centre has also had to close its BMX circuit, which has only recently opened and was hoped to be the venue for national competitions, after the torrential rain washed away parts of the track.

In 2007, the Spectrum Leisure Centre was saved from the scrapheap by a committed band of volunteers, many of whom are still involved in the management, and it was hailed as a flagship model of community involvement when Durham County Council announced it was closing six leisure centres last year.

Centre manager Dan Boulton said staff were powerless to stop the water from pouring in through the front doors and three sets of fire escapes during the storm which wreaked havoc across the North-East.

One of the worst hit areas was the store room where equipment including cricket mats, gymnastics supplies and the centre’s popular electronic dance mats, which they take to County Durham schools, were ruined.

Mr Boulton said the large sports hall floor, which cost thousands of pounds to install, may also have to be replaced because the area beneath the tiles is still sodden four days after the water dissipated.

He said: “It’s soul destroying really because all of the hard work has been undone.

“We had just about got this leisure centre to where we wanted it, but now a lot of work is going to have to be redone. It all happened so suddenly. One minute there was no rain and it was red hot, then 45 minutes later we were flooded.”

Water came up through the drains into the kitchen area, which opened a month ago and is a popular facility with community and sports groups using the centre.

He said: “The kitchen floor will be replaced and it might be we have to replace all the equipment as well.

“We certainly won’t be able to use it again for a long time.”

The centre’s gyms were unaffected and Mr Boulton said defiant staff will keep the Spectrum open, although services will be limited.

The BMX track will remain closed because its rough surface could be dangerous for riders.

For more information on which clubs and groups have been affected at the leisure centre, call 01388-747000.