Wollongong pool costs soar, fewer swimming

Wollongong ratepayers are forking out $5.2 million a year to run the city’s nine public pools, while the number of swimmers has dropped 17 per cent in the past seven years.

A new Wollongong City Council report reveals the council has been subsidising swimmers by up to $9.71 a visit, as fees cover just 15.9 per cent of pool costs.

The largest decline in patronage was at Berkeley pool, which has lost 43 per cent of its visitors since 2007-08.

With just 42,363 annual users, this free pool was also the most expensive per person, with each visit costing the council $9.71.

Likewise, ratepayers forked out an average of $8.50 per visitor at Dapto pool, which also had rapidly declining visitation numbers.

Entry fees at Dapto pool are $4.40 per adult.

With just under 300,000 yearly visitors, Beaton Park pool - which has entry fees of up to $5.40 per visit - was the cheapest for ratepayers at $1.83 per visit, while the Continental pool was subsidised at $2.27 per visitor.

The costs and visitation numbers have been used to inform the council’s pools strategy, now on public exhibition, with a raft of changes proposed over the next 10 years.

Recreation manager Peter Coyte said the council needed to update its ageing pools to make them more attractive.

‘‘We know that great contemporary pools offer the community a place for socialising,’’ he said. 

‘‘They offer a range of activities that attract young families, teens wanting excitement and play, young adults, lap swimmers and seniors looking for low impact exercise.’’

Recommendations include closing Dapto pool in the long term to allow for a new West Dapto facility, and expanding Beaton Park pools to create a ‘‘multi-use indoor aquatic facility’’. 

The ‘‘iconic’’ Continental pool would remain free and a restaurant and kiosk would be built at the site in the medium to long term. 

Elsewhere, the council would seek private investors to improve the fit-out at Corrimal pool, allowing it to become the region’s main competition pool.

The expensive, low-use Berkeley pool would remain free and be maintained until it was no longer viable, when residents would be asked about its replacement or demolition.

Community members are invited to comment on the plan until April 30.

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