WHEN Leisure World opened its doors for the first time back in August, 1997, the promoters and the press hailed it as the biggest thing to hit the South Coast entertainment scene for years.

Leisure World, which cost £27million to build and was dubbed the “fun palace of the south” by its owners Rank Leisure, endured a frantic few weeks in the run-up to its opening as contractors hurried to get the biggest leisure complex of its kind in Western Europe ready for its grand opening.

But complete it they did and the city’s mayor Ken Street performed the grand opening alongside Eastenders star Paul Nicholls who was the guest of honour.

Leisure World, which covered 200,000 square feet, was 72ft high, and employed more than 500 people, included a 13-screen Odeon cinema, Hotshots sports bar, Jumpin Jaks, nightclubs Ikon and Diva, and eateries at the imposing warehouse of fun, the likes of which the younger generation in Southampton at the time had never witnessed before.

At the height of its attraction, a standard Saturday night would be packed with young revellers starting the night at Hotshots for a couple of drinks before joining the long queue for Jumpin Jaks, that would nearly always be snaking past the entrance and out of the building.

The night would then be finished off at either Ikon (or Diva if you were over 25) until the early hours of the morning.

In 2008 Leisure World was given a £7million pound makeover when new owner Luminar replaced the Ikon and Diva nightclubs with an enormous multi-themed venue – called Oceana – that promised revellers a ‘world in one night’ experience.

However, despite the glamour and glitz of the new layout, the venue ultimately lost much of its original appeal.

Gone were days when sports fans would pile into Hotshots to watch England’s World Cup triumphs (and numerous defeats) on the big screens above the bar.

Gone too were many happy memories of the duelling pianos, Spinny man and the sound of the Baywatch theme tune being played at the end of the night at Jumpin Jaks.

And as for the nightclubs in its heyday, occasions such as the foam parties at Ikon are also just a thing of the past and remain with many of us as just a distant memory.