Always looking to raise the leisure management bar, Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) is pulling out all the stops to increase its number of customer visits to 44 million this year – up by four million on 2015 figures.
Not only that, the trust is also investing in the refurbishment of aquatics facilities at at least two of its leisure centres this year, while continuing to encourage swimming participation across the country.
“We’re not just another facilities management company – we want the things we deliver to be different and socially minded,” comments Managing Director Mark Sesnan.
“We continue to be a serious player within the local authority leisure centre market. But we will also continue to diversify our business, for example with our wholly-owned estate that currently includes low-cost accessible gyms, trampoline parks and ice rinks as well as continue to reinvest in our current centres”.
GLL is the UK’s largest provider of public pools, working in partnership with more than 30 local councils. Of the 194 leisure centres that GLL operates, 106 have swimming pools, made up of 98 indoor pools and eight outdoor pools. Its flagship centre is the London Aquatics Centre, home of the 2012 London Legacy and also the world’s most technologically advanced swimming facilities.
“Being able to see members of the public using the same facilities as some of our greatest athletes, some of whom are going to the summer Olympics in Rio this summer, makes the London Aquatics Centre an incredibly special place,” says Mark.
“Olympians Tom Daley and Aimee Willmott train at the London Aquatics Centre while Paralympian Ellie Simmonds trains at the Manchester Aquatics Centre – another world class facility managed by GLL.”
Last year GLL won silver in the Facility Operator of the Year category at the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) National Swimming Awards, in recognition of its commitment to improving aquatic programmes over the past 12 months, while ensuring community engagement and inclusivity.
Andrew Clark, National Sports and Aquatics Manager GLL, said: “We have a real focus on bringing the fun back to swimming pools with, themed sessions, inflatables, and organised activities. This coupled with our push to help adults learn to swim and reminding them how swimming can form a vital part of their fitness regime is helping more people get active.
“We are continuously trying to make swimming more accessible to communities. By increasing our customer online bookings we are helping avoid queues and waiting lists at peak times at our leisure centres. We are improving the customer journey to help swimming keep up with other leisure activities.”
A first for the UK leisure industry, GLL was established in 1993 after Greenwich Council needed to find a new way to run its leisure centres due to public spending cuts. Initially seven centres were transferred to GLL and success quickly followed.
In 1996, the social enterprise began expanding outside Greenwich and now operates all kinds of community services and spaces across the UK under the brand name Better. Over the last two decades its membership has also grown from about 7,000 to over 600,000 with tens of millions of visitors every year.
GLL is owned entirely by its staff and society members, each of whom owns a non-dividend-paying share in the business. The trust is headed up by Managing Director Mark Sesnan, who is supported in his role by Deputy Managing Director Peter Bundey. There are over 10,000 permanent and casual staff members in total, spread across the group’s 194 leisure centres.
“We’re a not–for-profit charitable social enterprise that exists for the benefit of everyone in our community,” explains Mark Sesnan, who was instrumental in moving the leisure centres service from Greenwich Council to a leisure trust in 1993.
“We do all of this with our partners, and unlike the private sector, we don’t take a profit to pay dividends to shareholders. Every penny of surplus we make is reinvested back into community projects, refurbishing our facilities and buying brand new state of the art equipment. We have reinvested over £100m to date and we want to keep investing more.”
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