IT was once the pride of Scotland and the envy of Europe, a multi-purpose leisure centre which played host to some of the world's most iconic bands.

The largest leisure centre in Europe put Irvine on the map in 1977 and families flocked from across Scotland to sample its state-of-the-art facilities from the swimming pool and indoor bowls to the cinema and bands' venue.

It had something from everyone - with bowls and boxing champions crowned, gymnastics displays, dog shows, Frosty's ice disco and bands from The Jam and The Clash to The Smiths and Chuck Berry.


At one point in the late 70s and early 80s, it averaged a million visitors a year, incredibly making it second in terms of popular Scottish tourist attractions, only to Edinburgh Castle.

Now the Magnum in Irvine is but a pile of rubble with the completion of demolition work which is estimated to have cost the council £550,000.

The closure agreed back in 2009, due to dwindling visitor numbers, sparked a public outcry, the likes of which had not been seen in the town since the ‘Auld Brig’ was knocked down by Irvine Development Corporation to make way for the Rivergate shopping mall in the 1970s.

Taking its place is North Ayrshire Council’s new £20 million centre dubbed The Portal.

North Ayrshire Council said as the demolition began: HeraldScotland: “The demolition of the Magnum will allow the Council to progress with its regeneration plans for the Irvine Harbour area and beyond, and form a component part of the ambitious proposals set out in the Ayrshire Growth Deal.

"In addition, there are a variety of community benefits associated with this contract including a half year apprenticeship programme and support for a variety of employment and skills projects for local school pupils."

The site had been earmarked for a multi-million pound housing project. North Ayrshire Council’s latest housing building programme in October, last year saw 1000 new council homes built in the area by March 2022, with 80 homes being delivered to the Harbourside area alone.

Today the council said: "Plans for the site are still under discussion."


Built by the now defunct Irvine Development Corporation, it was part of the developments arising from Irvine's designation as a new tonw in 1966.

Built in 1975 at a cost of £3.2 million it was opened a year later by Bruce Millan, the then Secretary of State for Scotland, as the crown jewl of the Beach Park development.

Punters were charged 25p just to take a peek at the behemoth sports complex but despite that, the Magnum’s high running costs meant the centre relied heavily on subsidies from the local taxpayers.

The first major concert at the Magnum took place on May 5, 1980 when, at the height of their popularity, Madness rolled into town.

From then on a veritable Who's Who of international bands signed up to play at the North Ayrshire venue with Thin Lizzy and The Jam playing the following year, The Clash descending on the New Town in 1982 with The Smiths performing in 1985.

Legend has it that when rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry was booked to play in 1983 he was handed his fee in a brown paper bag in the dressing room before going on stage.

When he took to the stage, he is said to have played just six songs, letting another guitarist take most of the solos and vanishing offstage swiftly.

Legendary booker Willie Feckleton, who was a huge fan is said to have told the star:  “That was great Chuck! They love you out there! How about an encore?"

“Sure,” said the rock legend.  “Fo’ anutha’ five hun’red dollas … ”



First Minister Nicola Sturgeon once fondly recalled her teenage years and Frosty’s Ice Disco at the Magnum during an appearance on Desert Island Discs three years ago.

She said: “I am an 80s girl at heart.”

She said it was all “pink leg warmers and day-glo orange" at Frosty’s Ice Disco  and admitted there was a "slight overlap" between her disco skating and her "political awakening".

She recalled: "The Magnum was probably the first of its kind of these big leisure centres in Irvine where I grew up.

"The ice rink had a Saturday night disco called Frosty's where we used to skate round and round and round and round to the sound of Wham and Duran Duran and Culture Club and all sorts of delights like that."

Pictures of the "Magnum hill" - which is all that remains of the sports centre have appeared on social media with some expressing sadness while others far more philosophical.


Douglas Clark remarked: "Didn't realise it was coming down. Many many wild days in there."

Anne Griffiths said: "This pile of rubble was the Magnum, Irvine. So sad."

Alex Boyd added: " I was quite shocked to see the Magnum gone, but on reflection it's certainly an improvement to the skyline of the harbour. It has happened, it's 2018: time to let it go."