22 February 2023

Four of Canberra's pools will need new operators by the end of June to stay open

| James Coleman
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swimming pool

Lakeside Leisure Centre in Tuggeranong is one of the pools needing new operators by 30 June 2023. Photo: Lakeside Leisure Centre, Facebook.

The future of several Canberra public swimming pools is in doubt after tender documents reveal the current contractors want out.

The details have since been removed, but an advance notice on the Tenders ACT website originally listed the Civic, Stromlo, Gungahlin and Tuggeranong pools as needing new management.

“The Territory intends to engage a suitable organisation or organisations to provide aquatic facility management services at ACT Government Pools,” the notice reads.

The Canberra Olympic Pool, Gungahlin Leisure Centre, Lakeside Leisure Centre (Tuggeranong) and Stromlo Leisure Centre are all managed by YMCA NSW (aka, ‘The Y’).

For the first three, all with contracts due to expire on 30 June, new owners are needed soon if they’re to remain open. The contract for Stromlo comes to an end in June 2026.

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After 27 years, the managers of the Dickson Aquatic Centre have also confirmed they want to terminate their contract with the ACT Government at the end of June, a year earlier than the scheduled expiry date.

The ACT Government wouldn’t comment on why so many operators have had enough, only to say it had “enjoyed long-term relationships with pool operators in our city” and was “respectful of any business decisions”.

Duckson Pool

For one, the ducklings love Dickson Pool. Photo: Graham Smith, Dickson Aquatic Centre, Facebook.

“Our priority is to establish new long-term operational agreements that enable community pools to continue operating smoothly,” a spokesperson said.

“The ACT Government is committed to supporting suitable organisations to submit bids to operate the pools.”

The spokesperson added that “all pools will remain operational with full services available to the ACT community through the transition”.

Contractors manage seven public swimming pools on behalf of the ACT Government, including Dickson and the four run by The Y. Manuka Pool is operated by Big Island Sports with a contract to end in June 2027 and Erindale’s Active Leisure Centre by the Erindale College Parents & Citizens Association, with no end date to its contract.

It comes at a cost of nearly $17 million per year to the taxpayer, covering repairs and maintenance. More than one million people visit public pools every year.

READ ALSO Phillip pool’s days are numbered after developer confirms acquisition

In November last year, ACT Sports Minister Yvette Berry flagged contract negotiations were underway with The Y about the Civic Pool due to the cost of maintenance of the now 60-year-old facility. Initially, there were talks of building a city stadium on the site, but these were ruled out largely due to the expense of shifting Parkes Way.

“The pool at Civic will receive funding for a little bit longer while we work on plans,” Ms Berry told annual reports hearings on 7 November.

“It is still going to be used as a pool … but it does have a limited use, and it is a very old facility, so it does need replacing.”

At the same time, Ms Berry announced the government was exploring the construction of a deep dive pool at Stromlo Leisure Centre to replace the one in Civic. This was always part of Stromlo’s future, at an estimated cost of $7 million.

diver jumping off diving platform

The Civic Olympic Pool diving platform in action. Photo: File.

It’s understood both these conversations are ongoing.

The news follows in the wake of the ACT’s biggest property developer, Geocon, taking over the Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Rink in January 2023 for an undisclosed amount.

The ACT Government has previously made clear that the company must comply with the terms of the ‘recreational facility’ lease. A brief statement from Geocon backed this up, saying it intended to continue operating the centre once it had completed “rectification works”.

Either way, it’s unlikely the pool will reopen by the end of summer.

Region contacted The Y and Dickson Aquatic Centre for comment.

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Riotact, to follow this up, are these community facilities going to close this Friday, or has the government found new managers? Has the government explained why these operators decided to end their contracts?

Ray Polglaze3:29 pm 10 Mar 23

Berry’s announcement that “the government was exploring the construction of a deep dive pool at Stromlo Leisure Centre to replace the one in Civic” shows the ongoing gap between the decisions of the ACT Government on locating facilities and their agenda to encourage people out of cars and in to using public transport.

The Civic pool is accessible by public transport and close to the central bus and light rail interchange. The Stromlo Leisure Centre is a long way from bus routes and is essentially inaccessible for people reliant on public transport.

The ACT Government is continuing to make decisions on the assumption that people will use cars while also wanting people to not use cars.

Keen to see a follow up article here

Wonder if they’re just holding out for more money.

Daniel O'CONNELL1:10 pm 22 Feb 23

Swimming is expensive in these pools, $17 plus entry fee for every punter that goes through the turnstyle

GrumpyGrandpa10:21 pm 21 Feb 23

Could it be that with the Government’s 70/30 construction policy is to blame for the demise of public pools?

Many of these new apartment towers have their own pool.
Why pay to use a public pool when your body corporate fees provide a pool within your own complex?

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