COMMERCIAL POOL MARKET REVIEW PART TWO
Latest figures have confirmed that the supply of public swimming facilities is no longer keeping pace with demand.
According to the 2018 State of the UK Swimming Industry Report, pool numbers have generally remained static with figures up from 3,158 to 3,161 – a marginal increase of just 0.1 per cent.
And yet swimming numbers, lessons and the usage of outdoor pools is up, right across the board. In fact, many leisure operators say they are busier than ever.
“We are experiencing a period of rapid growth, having taken on 13 new leisure sites since the start of 2019 alone,” reveals Jacqui Tillman, Head of Swimming at Everyone Active.
“This growth is projected to continue as more local authorities call on the expertise of established operators to support them in achieving their health and wellbeing objectives.” In 2018, over 30 million visits were made to Everyone Active leisure centres and it is estimated that 8.2 million of these were from casual swimmers using the pools.
The company currently manages 120 swimming pools across England and employs more than 13,000
staff across 190 leisure and cultural facilities, including 3,200 swim teachers.
“We are seeing a significant increase in the demand for leisure water specifically, with customers looking for novel and exciting ways of being entertained while in the pool,” explains Jacqui.
“I envisage that this demand for leisure water is going to continue to grow as families look for ways to keep their children engaged and active away from the distractions of modern life.”
Elsewhere in the county, Waltham Abbey Leisure Centre, which is managed by Places Leisure, has seen its number of casual swimmers increase by 65 per cent within the last 12 months and swimming lesson participation is up by 13 per cent.
With financial pressure influencing local authorities’ decisions and as leisure is not a statutory service, increasingly local authorities are looking at the opportunities presented through external pool management to reduce their costs, improve efficiencies and broaden their pool programme offerings.
“External management offers the ability to bring in all of the specialisms and the knowledge required to enhance operations without having to directly employ the expertise and skills sets themselves,” explains Mark Haslam, Head of Swimming and Sport at Places Leisure.
Alan Mitchell, Communications Manager at Serco Leisure agrees: “By working with a leisure provider like Serco, local authorities get a ready-made team of leisure professionals who’ve dealt with every type of swimming facility. They get sales and marketing teams who know the industry insideout, facilities teams who’ve successfully managed large and small sites throughout the country. They get economies of scale savings due to our buying power with suppliers, and most of all they can get a group of people who absolutely love swimming and pool-based activities.” Serco manage over 50 leisure facilities across the county, of which 34 have swimming pools. The company boasts around three million swims per year across its facilities with Water Meadows in Mansfield racking up the most number of casual swims on average.
In recent years Serco Leisure have built and opened three new pools in Birmingham in partnership with Birmingham City Council. This year will mark the opening of the fourth and final new build, when Ladywood Leisure Centre opens later in the summer. Ladywood will boast a 25m eight lane competition pool plus a large teaching pool.
“The biggest challenge we face is aging facilities,” explains Alan. “Pools in particular require a great deal of maintenance and as they get older the maintenance of a plant room can present challenges to the smooth day to day running.”
He adds: “We are fortunate to have an amazing technical team who work tirelessly training staff to deal with every issue that arises to ensure we can provide a great pool for people to swim in 52 weeks a year.”
Serco’s flagship centre is Bangor Aurora in Northern Ireland which boasts a 50m ten lane competition pool, diving facilities and a water play area. The centre was also recognised with a Gold Standard award at last year’s UK Pool & Spa Awards. Some 2,250 children currently take part in the swimming lesson programme at Bangor Aurora – a number which is continuing to grow.
Leisure Centre, whichis managed by PlacesLeisure, has seen itsnumber of casualswimmers increase by65 per cent within thelast 12 months.Says Alan: “We’re determined to ensure every child in each Local Authority area has the opportunity to learn to swim. We work closely with schools and other agencies to ensure parents see learning to swimas an essential element of a child’s journey through life.”He adds: “Aside from swimming lessons we offer a range ofprogrammed activities which include a balance of schools, swim clubs, training sessions, health and general public sessions. In all of our facilities we also aim to have some unprogrammed swimming everyday so that everyone in thecommunity is able to usethe pool at a time that is convenient to them.”One of the challenges facingtoday’s leisure operators is accurately balancing pool time for specific user groups with sufficient access to public swimming.
“We are continuously assessing attendance and participation figures at both a local centre level and across our entire group to ensure that the pool timetables are meetingthe needs of our members,”comments Jacqui Tillman Headof Swimming at Everyone Active.“Our swim managers are also able to use their knowledge of pool programming to maximisethe space in our pools,” she adds.Mark Haslam, Head ofSwimming and Sport at PlacesLeisure agrees: “The biggest challenge in terms of poolmanagement is utilising the pool space available and offering a balanced programme for ourcommunities, whilst considering the various stakeholder groups who require similar, prime time pool space.”Places Leisure offers avaried timetable of poolbased sessions across its 71swimming pool sites in England.Places Leisure Eastleigh is the company’s flagship centreand provides a mix of aquatic classes, swimming lessons, family fun pool time and club sessions.The venue that opened inNovember 2017 to replace itspredecessor Fleming Park Leisure Centre, features one of thelargest sports halls in the South and an eight lane main pool with learner pool and movable floor as well as spectator seating.Looking ahead to the future,Places Leisure has a numberof new facilities in the pipeline.Andover Leisure Centre, which was built by Places Leisure as part of a Design, Build, Operate and Maintain contract withTest Valley Borough Council,is currently planning its official opening for later this year.Surrey Heath BoroughCouncil has also awarded a25 year contract with Places Leisure, to design, build, operate and maintain a £22 millionleisure centre in Camberley. The new centre planned to open in 2021 will feature a 25m six lane pool and a learner pool withadjustable floor.
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