CONSTRUCTION is finally set to start on a £1.8m bowling alley and entertainment complex at a site on the edge of the town centre.

The 10-pin bowling venue, which will be operated by Superbowl UK, will create 35 jobs once completed next year at the former St Thomas Square site, off St Helens Linkway.

The development was announced last year but progress flatlined. However, drilling work has started and developers provided a positive update on what represents one of the largest leisure investments in St Helens in nearly two decades.

The 12-lane bowling alley will complement existing businesses at the site – which include Costa Coffee, Aldi and a “new concept” Frankie & Benny’s restaurant – which is scheduled for May 2018.

The complex, which aims to appeal to families and children, will house a Ninja Tag Active Assault Course and a SEGA amusement arcade.

Paul Hubball, director for Orbit Developments, which is behind the scheme, said: “The development has been challenging from the outset including the remediation of a contaminated site which has sat vacant for years.

“The ultimate aim is making it a space that can be used and enjoyed by the public.

“The hard work has paid off and we are extremely close to offering a leisure scheme for residents to enjoy.

“With an investment of more than £1.8 million, we’re confident the Superbowl UK team will deliver a fantastic facility that will appeal to users of all ages and look forward to seeing the finished product in 2019.”

Backers of the scheme hope the announcement will bring to an end long-term speculation over development at the site, which has been hit by delays and false dawns over the past decade

Orbit has worked closely with St Helens Council and their initiative ‘Invest in St Helens’ – which is aimed at driving the leisure and retail economy.

The council has come under increasing pressure from residents, who have become frustrated by declining areas of the town centre.

In a statement St Helens Council leader Barrie Grunewald, welcomed news that work is finally getting underway.

He said: “It is a significant milestone in regards to steering the town towards more positive and promising times, as regeneration of our town centre is top of most residents’ wish lists.

“I can assure those residents that this is one of the council’s biggest priorities as we look to attract more families from inside and outside of the borough to spend time together in our town to support the economy.”“I believe a bowling alley is a perfect piece of the jigsaw in allowing us to do this.”

Kate Quaintance-Blackford, director of Superbowl UK said: “Linkway West presents us with an opportunity to bring our distinctive brand of family entertainment into St Helens.

“We are one of very few companies in the UK offering such a variety of facilities under one roof and, because of that, we’re very confident about the success of the new site here.

“Our brand-new social active leisure concept Ninja Tag Active Assault Course is well underway, in which players will be able to test their strategy, speed, agility and bravery, whilst promoting fitness, fun and competition.

“Superbowl UK St Helens will also be the host of a SEGA Prize Zone which will supply a amusement offering completely different to all other bowling centres in the UK.”

“SEGA Amusements are continually developing new and exciting products and Superbowl UK will be test locations for some of these machines, so guests can experience these games, some 6 months before anyone else in the UK.”

The developers behind the scheme are part of The Emerson Group which also includes Jones Homes - who have recently brought residential schemes to Eccleston and Newton-le-Willows and overseen the arrival of the first Sainsburys store to the borough.