THE Commonwealth Games are long gone and the Lawn Tennis Association has decided to close down its youth academy, but Bolton Arena is still proving to be a centre of sporting excellence.

On Friday, the National tennis championships will be staged for the second successive year at the Middlebrook complex, which boasts eight indoor and six outdoor courts.

Yet it is the development between the sporting action and the sciences behind it that is proving to be a major attraction.

And with a number of other sports sharing the facility, the Arena is proving to be the ideal centre to embrace the latest ideas in sport technology.

As well as tennis, the Arena boasts a 400m running track, an 80x40m all-weather games area, a pitch for athletic field events, football or rugby, a street basketball court and a fully equipped gymnasium with a high standard of equipment and instructors - all of which are available for use by local sportsmen and women either on a pay-as-you-play basis or a membership scheme.

But what makes the facilities at Bolton unique among those offered by a local community is the partnership with Meridian Sports Medicine.

Sports scientist and psychologist Matt Jevon and clinical director Siobhan O'Donovan, head a team that brings together sports science and sports medicine.

"You won't find anything like this anywhere else in the country," said Matt. "Some universities have certain facilities, for example, Manchester Met has a better sports science lab than I have, but it hasn't got a 400 metre running track outside the door. Lilleshall has 12 football pitches but they don't have the back-up facilities we have here under one roof.

"Traditionally sports science has only been made available to elite athletes. Here it is available to all.

"If you want to come and play five a side football on the all weather area or you want to use the track or simply come to get fit and healthy, those things are available and are waiting to be used.

"But we are also looking at other issues as well, such as healthy living.

"To this end we are currently working on an application to the European Social Fund to start addressing health and physical activity issues in some communities in the area," he said.

"We still have less than six per cent of the population, who are members of gyms, while it is thought that less than 12 per cent have an active lifestyle. In other words 88 per cent are having less than the required excercise levels.

"You can come along here use the gymnasium to get fit as well as receiving help and advice on health matters backed up by a sports treatment facility that includes a 24 hour reponse line. Nobody is treated differently here.

"You can come in and get a little guidance on your training. We can then tailor things to what you need. We also deal with people who have specific difficulties, such as those who have had cardiac problems. We have also dealt with a lot of para-olympic athletes, people who have physical or mental disabilities"

"We are the expertise to back up the facilities and level of equipment that is in the Arena."

Sioban O'Donovan added: "We feel what we have here is unique.

"The centres that bear comparison with us are probably Bisham Abbey or Lilleshall but they don't have the same number of facilities as us and do not integrate them in the way we do.

"And given that it is all part and parcel of the Bolton community scheme and the passport access scheme for less advantaged people within the borough, it really does mean that it is available to everyone."