4 January 2023

Sink or swim time: Phillip pool gets a new lease on life but the dry spell continues

| James Coleman
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Swimming pool

The Phillip pool is closed for the second summer in a row. Photo: Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre, Facebook.

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.

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“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.”

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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.

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What will we have left in Woden? We’ve lost Deakin Pool already, plus the ten pin bowl, indoor basketball centre, pitch and putt golf, Gymnastics centre.

The ACT Government can’t keep allowing high rise Property Developers to switch the zoning from sports and community facilities over to instead allow high rise properties. Urban planning has zoning to protect community facilities and it’s almost all been killed off in some areas. This government only protects the areas they need for election wins and hasn’t given a stuff about Woden or Tuggeranong for two decades.

Yeah, fill the pool with water, then freeze it and let everyone play hockey. The only sport this township has been consecutively successful at. Go Brave!:)

If pools in Woden and Civic close, as is being considered, there’ll be nowhere for the increasing number of residents living in higher density inner Canberra areas to swim unless they drive to outer areas.

The whole purpose of living in the inner city is to be able to walk everywhere and live without a car. For that to happen, there needs to be more facilities in inner areas, not less.

Strongly agreed. There used to be an Olympic sized pool in Deakin – gone. The 25 metre one near the shops – gone too.
Obviously no one in Canberra is meant to swim.

Well, it seems John sold the place to a developer. Receips for ice skating sessions show NG landholdings now (was phillip ice skating). And google says – this is geocon (https://abr.business.gov.au/AbnHistory/View/76604272246)

Martin Miller11:01 am 07 Jan 23

Will he build a new aquatic facility with indoor 50m pools, slides and a diving pool or just more apartments with a piddly 25m indoor pool which has public use. Sadly its probably the latter.

Surely this can’t be true. But if so, I’m guessing it will be like the Braddon lawn bowls Centre where notorious property developer Bulum publicly promised an outdoor cinema and community facilities for the site but now wants high density apartments.

Martin Miller11:35 am 05 Jan 23

Actually a 99 year lease (sale with conditions) wasn’t granted until 2008 , when the then Planning Authority advised the ACT Government not to retain the lease because of the Ice Rink. Which compensation would be payable to the company Glencora Pty Ltd.
Interesting also that Jamison and Dickson pools are as old or older than Phillip Pool but are in a much better condition. What does that say for this company and manager!

William Newby8:17 pm 04 Jan 23

This facility is a beacon for the dishonesty and incompetence that is the ACT government.
It is perfectly clear that this pool is being allowed to fail on purpose so that it can be quietly shut down in another year or two; the land sold off, and the liability of running an expensive public asset offloaded.
The ACT Gov have the data that shows exactly how many people attend Stromlo or Lakeside Leisure each week – that reside in Woden.
Barr looks the other way as he doesn’t have the money, I get that, but just man up and make a decision here, shut it down. You have already made your decision, stop teasing the people of Woden with lies, reappointing the lease to a private unnamed individual is obvious smoke and mirrors.

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