Future of municipal pools debated

Its gates have been closed seven months and already the century-old Municipal Pools complex has an eerie, ghostlike atmosphere about it.

Ivy is infiltrating the shed housing the dilapidated pump. A creeper has snuck through a crack and is taking over the stairs and floor of a changing room and the main pool is a sad state with huge cracks scarring its surface.

While the complex remains closed for now, it's been granted a stay of execution by Hamilton City councillors. The pools closed in May because of major mechanical and structural defects. Council's Community Development and Leisure Unit sought advice from experts and presented findings to council this month.

The report highlighted significant structural and services-related issues including inadequate strength of the main pool walls, voids under the main slab, rapid leakage (more than 37,000 litres per day), deteriorated piping, poor water filtration and water and disinfectant distribution compromising water quality, no disability access, lack of parking and the complex not meeting earthquake regulations.

The report identified options for council to consider including upgrading the pools and any of those options, aside from keeping the pool closed and doing nothing, will require funding not currently allocated in the Long-Term Plan.

Council voted in favour of staff beginning full discussions with stakeholder groups - including Municipal Pools supporters and swimming organisations - to explore and cost a full investigation into options to re-open the pools.

"What we discuss and the options we examine with interest groups and stakeholders will be presented to council next year as part of the Annual Plan process," said Community Development and Leisure manager Deanne McManus-Emery.

"Unfortunately, that does mean the pools will remain closed, as the issue of retaining water quality to an appropriate standard - the reason for the closure - remains. However, we'll be looking to begin those discussions and investigations into what we can do at the site early in the new year."

Councillors gave staff and interest groups clear direction to work together to find a solution that would see the pools continue to operate and a decision on the future of the pools is expected in February 2014. As part of the resolution passed, council also asked staff to take a broader look at swim lane space and leisure swimming capacity in the city.

Hamilton Central Business Association general manager Sandy Turner said she understood both arguments for and against keeping the pools open.

"We're happy the council is reviewing and assessing the situation but we are mindful Te Rapa pools, for inner city dwellers, are only eight minutes away. [To upgrade the Municipal Pools] would take a lot of money and unless the lobby group has some serious backing behind them, it's going to be a really hard road. I do understand the historic angle though."

Ms Turner said the land could be used in a more creative manner.

"It's prime real estate and if the right developer came along with the right concepts, we could be utilising the magnificent views and the river. There's opportunity to consider that, without there being yet another major fundraiser [for council]."

Club Cardio is in the final stages of planning a multi-purpose swim facility alongside its gym on the corner of Rostrevor and Victoria Sts. Co-owner Shane Vincent said the facility would feature two 25m pools to service private swimmers, swim lessons for all ages and school groups. While it was a business venture and would have to make money, he said he could see a "real need" in the community for such a facility and would ensure it was accessible to those who needed it.

- Hamilton News

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