The lease over Phillip’s outdoor swimming pool and attached ice-skating rink was sold just before Christmas after years of talks between the ACT Government and the former lessee over its future.
The Phillip Swimming & Ice Skating Centre on Irving Street opened in the early 1970s under Commonwealth Government ownership, before it was sold to Dr Wayne Houghton of Glencora Pty Ltd in 1979 as a recreational facility.
In 2021, the pool received an exemption from the government to remain closed over the 2021/2022 summer period due to maintenance work.
In March 2022, ACT Minister for Sport Yvette Berry said she expected the lessee to open the facility the following “summer and beyond”. But by December 2022, the manager and sole employee of the pool (name omitted by request) said wet weather prevented it from being re-painted and reopened in time.
The manager declined to comment on who the new owner is but said the pool is unlikely to reopen until next season.
“Anything with water needs constant maintenance,” he told Region, and also mentioned that the site’s high water table was creating headaches.
“We’ve been pumping water out from under the pool. We tape a clear plastic film over the top of the concrete base, come back two hours later and it’s covered in condensation. It’s not suitable for painting like this.”
The manager said he was sure the new owners would have the pool ready to go by the end of summer but couldn’t see the viability of it “only opening for a month”. It’s expected to remain closed until late 2023.
The facility has long had question marks hanging over its future, especially as the ACT Government sets to work on a new ice-skating rink in Tuggeranong. There have also been rumours over the years that the Phillip site would be sold to apartment developers.
Either way, the manager said the site’s poor location, excessive maintenance costs and declining popularity don’t bode well.
“In the 1980s and 1990s, we would get 1500 people coming through here on a summer’s day,” he said.
“Nowadays, there are very few because not only have recreational habits changed but there are also no real attractions here – like water slides or diving pools – and there’s no real potential for installing them because of the location.”
Due to the pool’s proximity to residential apartment complexes, the manager said noise could be an issue. This – and the fact the pool lacks the necessary five-star accreditation from Royal Life Saving Society Association – is also what rules it out for school swimming carnivals.
“And even under normal circumstances, the pool is still only being used 12 weeks of the year at a cost of $1500 per day to operate. It’s just a big block sitting here for eight months of the year doing bugger all. You can’t break even on swimming pools these days.”
In 2017, Dr Houghton told an ACT Government standing committee on planning and urban renewal that “we now have a facility which is nearing the end of its life”.
“I cannot see a future there.”
The manager refused to comment on who the new owner might be and where they might be based, but the ACT Government said they expect the facility to remain as-is.
“The Phillip pool is a privately run facility and the ACT Government expects the operator to comply with the terms of its lease,” a spokesperson said.
Dr Houghton was contacted for comment.