29 September 2023

New operator appointed for five of Canberra's public pools

| James Coleman
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swimming pool

Lakeside Leisure Centre in Tuggeranong will now be run by Belgravia Leisure. Photo: Lakeside Leisure Centre, Facebook.

In the nick of time, a new operator has been appointed for five of Canberra’s public swimming pools.

Belgravia Health and Leisure Pty Ltd (Belgravia Leisure) will take over the day-to-day management of the Dickson, Civic, Stromlo, Gungahlin and Tuggeranong pools on behalf of the ACT Government.

In June this year, YMCA NSW (aka The Y), based in Sydney, stepped away from its government contracts for the Canberra Olympic Pool, Gungahlin Leisure Centre, Stromlo Leisure Centre and Lakeside Leisure Centre.

The managers of the Dickson Aquatic Centre also wanted out around the same time, despite the fact their contract had another year to go.

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The government published a tender notice calling for a “suitable organisation or organisations to provide aquatic facility management services at ACT Government pools”.

“All pools will remain operational with full services available to the ACT community through the transition,” a spokesperson added.

Belgravia Leisure, based in Victoria and with “over 30 years of experience in delivering aquatic and leisure services to communities across the country”, has won the tender.

It currently manages more than 160 swimming pools across Australia and New Zealand.

Gungahlin Leisure Centre

The Gungahlin Leisure Centre required almost $5 million worth of repairs after leaks were discovered. Photo: Gungahlin Leisure Centre, Facebook.

“The company … will bring their expertise to the ACT to support all five Canberra pools and provide a valuable service to so many in our community,” the government said yesterday (27 September).

“This appointment is a promising step to providing certainty for both patrons and current staff.”

The contract lasts for five years, with the possibility of an extension for up to 10 years.

The transition will take place over the coming weeks with “minimal disruption to pool and gym services”. Current staff will also be given the option to stay on.

Dickson Pool

Chris Graham and Shay Kennedy have operated the Dickson Pool for 26 years. Photo: Region.

As a seasonal pool, the Dickson Aquatic Centre will open as scheduled for the summer swim season at the end of October.

Chris Graham and Shay Kennedy have managed Dickson on behalf of the ACT Government for 26 years, and the YMCA NSW has managed four of Canberra’s other public pools for nine years.

The government thanked the operators for their “fantastic service to the community”.

“Both organisations have contributed to the lives of thousands of Canberrans and we look forward to continuing to work with them throughout the transition period.”

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Belgravia Leisure CEO Nick Cox said the company was “honoured” to pick up where the others have left off.

“These venues are designed to be community spaces that welcome all ages and abilities, including those with special needs, which certainly aligns with our commitment to create and deliver programs that are safe, fun, innovative, accessible, diverse and consistent in their quality,” he said.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to make a positive social impact on these communities across Canberra.”

man in a suit standing near a pool

Belgravia Leisure CEO Nick Cox. Photo: Belgravia Leisure.

As for Canberra’s other public pools, Manuka 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.

The Phillip Pool was bought by property developer Geocon in January 2023 and is understood to be reopening in time for summer.

Combined, the pools cost the taxpayer nearly $17 million per year, including repairs and maintenance, and there are more than 1 million visits annually.

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