Phillip will go without its swimming pool this summer after its management confirmed opening would neither be viable nor possible for the upcoming season.
Manager and currently the sole working employee of the Phillip Swimming Centre John Raut, who has worked at Phillip for 41 years, said there is simply too much work to do for one person after a frustrating period of lockdown prevented him from completing necessary works at the pool.
“Normally, we do our maintenance from the end of August right through to the beginning of November when we open the pool,” said Mr Raut.
“We don’t have any staff whatsoever, it’s just myself, so we normally do the repaint and everything in-house, but on this occasion, with no staff and no access to materials or tradespeople, it wasn’t going to be possible by the start of summer.”
Mr Raut said several other local pools are having similar troubles with re-opening, but costly issues with the ice rink exacerbate the problems at Phillip. They have received an exemption from the ACT Government to remain closed until March.
While acknowledging the facility’s long-term future is murky, Mr Raut says the closure for summer has nothing to do with the owner trying to get “rid of the pool”, as some comments online have suggested. It is also not related to concerns about future COVID-19 restrictions.
He said it’s simply that it would be far too complex for one person to get the pool ready in time.
Beyond the Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre’s immediate future, Mr Raut says that the proposed new ice sports facility in Tuggeranong would likely result in the Phillip Centre going out of business as he believes there is not enough demand in Canberra for two ice sports facilities.
With the ACT Government yet to indicate whether they will support the Centre moving forward, in the aftermath of a costly two-year period for the business, and with the long-serving manager nearing retirement, the Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre has significant obstacles to overcome to secure its future.
Marty from Phillip, who was a regular user of the facility, believes that the lack of areas for sport and recreation in the Woden Valley is glaringly obvious in comparison to other regions of Canberra. He says that while there’s a level of understanding from the community perspective regarding the difficulty of running the business through COVID, the decision to remain closed will have a “huge impact on the community”.
“It’s a real loss for the Woden Valley,” he said. “The Phillip Pool kind of acts as this place where people can go and do exercise, go for a swim outside and families can hang out in the summer, in the place of parks and things like that.”
As to the future sustainability of the Phillip Pool, Marty believes it’s something the ACT Government must look into and provide the necessary support where it’s required as it’s a valued asset for the people of the Woden Valley.
In August, the ACT Government confirmed that repairs to the 50-metre pool at the Gungahlin Leisure Centre will not be completed by the end of the year.