We visit the reigning UK Pool & Spa Awards’ Commercial Venue Of The Year…
2019 was a red letter year for Serco Leisure and the 128-strong team that welcomes over one million visitors most years to its outstanding Bangor Aurora swimming complex in Northern Ireland. As well as lifting the title of Commercial Leisure Venue Of The Year in the UK Pool and Spa Awards, the five-pool venue also won the first ever competition to decide the World Cup of Pools. The Twitter-based poll to find the most popular swimming venue among social media users in the UK saw Bangor Aurora compete in four World Cup ‘matches’. The competition culminated in a ‘final’ against the London 2012 Olympic venue, the London Aquatics Centre with Bangor Aurora emerging victorious. Flushed with that success, Serco Leisure keep their feet on the ground, using an external ‘mystery shopper’ service to provide them with impartial feedback on how the venue is really performing. Since being introduced in 2015, Bangor has consistently scored over 80% in each of the visits. Opened in 2013 and Northern Ireland’s only 50 metre, 10-lane competition pool, the venue is also home to Swim Ulster, the National Governing Body (NGB) for swimming in Northern Ireland.
Chris Kelly, General Manager and Gordon Pennock – Partnership Director, head a list of key people at the Aurora who live and breathe the centre. Their passion and enthusiasm has helped create the highly positive environment for the staff who work alongside them. Chris and Gordon understand that a happy team is a productive team, resulting in a staff retention rate of 95%, which would be the envy of any other business. The venue also boasts the highest staff engagement score across the whole of Serco Leisure – 84%. Their drive to make the Aurora a success has also led to record-breaking visitor numbers, and the acclaim of the leisure industry through its ukactive Centre of the Year Award for 2018. Key people include Tracie Hanna, Front of House Manager, has co-ordinated all of the venue’s swimming galas; approximately 60 in total. This includes a very successful Special Olympics Annual Gala. Simon Dickson, Head Swimming Teacher, has been pivotal in raising the standard of the lessons delivered, developing on school swimming lessons, developing a more skillsbased programme for the schools we work with.
Bangor Aurora has received significant investment from Disability Action NI to accommodate not only wheelchair users but also any user with a disability, impaired vision or restricted mobility. The venue achieved inclusive sports facility accreditation for best practice in design and management of sports facilities, which are inclusive of people with disabilities. The centre’s packed timetable includes swimming lessons for more than 2,000 participants while a huge draw is AquaChallenge, Northern Ireland’s largest indoor inflatable obstacle course.
• Swimming and diving lessons with over 2,200 participants
• AquaChallenge – Largest Indoor Challenge in Northern Ireland
• Commonwealth + Olympian swimmers and coaches, international swimming galas and events
• Swimming clubs long-course and short-course coached training
• Water Polo Training and Events
• Leisure waters with flumes and sidewinder slider
• School swimming – 24 schools registered – 2,400 kids attending
• Baby Beach, Pirate Ship and Children’s pool parties
• Wave Machine
3 Valentine Road, Bangor
Co-Down, N.Ireland, BT20 4TH