Well-meaning local authorities are ticking the public pool provision box with a lack of imagination that is short-changing the British swimming public. A lack of joined-up thinking is resulting in minimal facilities while completely side-stepping the entertainment potential. “When families go to the swimming pool they are looking for the fun factor,” urges Stephen Ellix, vice chair of the new Industry Forum, part of PWTAG. “Decisions are being made county by county with a lack of a joined-up approach that is completely fragmented.” Stephen believes local authorities are missing the ‘family dynamic’ in swimming and believes this is something organisations like PWTAG should be able to address by offering a combined approach.
“A swimming pool complex is somewhere I should be able to spend the whole day with the family,” emphasises Stephen. “It should offer a combined swimming approach from 50m hard core exercise pool to a 50m indoor entertainment pool with slides, flumes and other water features,” emphasises Stephen who is Managing Director for water treatment specialists, ProMinent Fluid Controls (UK) Ltd. “We open up a whole can of worms when we look at the lottery grant system and try and work out who is influencing lottery-funded swimming provision,” Stephen continues.
“We should be setting our sights so much higher, with wellness facilities including saunas and spas, an eating area, access to outside space in the summer not to mention toilets and changing facilities that are spotlessly clean,” he added. “If we are to inspire a culture of swimming and all the add-of benefits of combating obesity, we have got to have a major rethink.”
RETURN ON INVESTMENT
Stephen recognises that funding is the key ingredient as well as land provision but believes there is a strong case for a return on investment if we raise the swimming pool provision bar.
“We are producing pools for the absolute minimum and not seeing swimming as a commercial opportunity. We need to rethink the delivery of the design and appeal of our pools.
“Do you think Center Parcs would create their fabulousswimming pool complexes without them being profitable?” Stephen believes organisations, such as Sport England, should be stepping up and playing a much more intrinsic role. He points out: “They shouldn’t just be handing over money; they should be influencing the way that money is spent wisely and core to that is the design of the facility. “Swimming provision as a whole just lacks imagination,” he says. “It is simply not geared for users, we have to aim higher.”
A typical example is the swimming pool, opened recently, at Ely in Cambridgeshire that offers an eight lane 25m pool and a small teaching pool with a moving floor to accommodate mixed ability users. Opened with a fanfare of publicity, the teaching pool is, in reality, not able to cope with the number of swimming classes currently booked.
The facility is functional but lacks the fun factor. Local families have been left frustrated and vowing to continue travelling up to 45 minutes to more interesting and entertainment water leisure offerings such as those supplied at Bedford and Bury St Edmunds. Stephen responds: “Who can blame local authorities who are doing the minimum by ticking boxes? While they can get away with the basics, there is no incentive for them think differently. “It is such a shame they lack ambition and ultimately lacking a huge opportunity through a lack of vision. “If you can find the land, people are prepared to pay more and we need to raise our performance bar to meet that expectation. “It is time we realise…if we build it, believe me….they will come.”
Unique and Exciting Swimming Centre
You can buy off the peg water features but World Leisure wanted to provide something unique and exciting for a recent refurbishment of North Kesteven Leisure Centre in North Hykeham. The £3.6 million refurbishment is aimed at providing a world of fun and adventure for children of all ages though building water confidence and to become a top venue for all abilities of swimming. At the start of the project the principal surveyor engaged with local Lincolnshire children in forums to help shape and guide concepts and ideas. The exciting concept ideas came from the imagination of Lincolnshire children who were inspired by Lincoln Castle and the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. The brand new water flume has digital touch screens allowing ‘flumers’ to select lighting and music themes, followed by a countdown. They will also be able to select an option for a camera to take a selfie of themselves during their adventure, which they can then choose to have emailed to them. The plant was supplied by Astral, the chemical dosing tablet feeder and controls through JAK as the client already utilise these with Siemens Ezytrol controllers on some of their other sites, UV was supplied by ATG.
World Leisure UK