The troubled Oasis Aquatic Centre has fallen some 15,000 visits short of its annual target amid concerns over rising prices and hygiene.
In the latest Wagga City Council annual report, the council had a target of 290,000 visitors but secured only 274,996 during the 2018 financial year.
As well, bookings for its Swim and Survive program recorded a decrease to -1.3 per cent. The target was a 5 per cent increase.
Wendy Mannell, a Wagga mother of four teenagers, said she had noticed “a downturn of users at the facilities” during the past five years.
“Over that time, prices have increased – I have four teenagers living at home and it’s expensive if everyone wants to come,” Ms Mannell said.
I have four teenagers living at home and it’s expensive if everyone wants to come.Wendy Mannell, Wagga resident
“There are also lots of other activities in Wagga these days and lots of people have their own pools.
“So those factors also impact.”
Ms Mannell said another concern was hygiene.
“The main feedback I’ve been hearing from young people is that the pool is dirty – whether that’s fact of fiction, I’m not sure,” she said.
“I’ve never found that, but as far as comments from young people, it’s about the debris they find in the pool.”
The facility is the only project listed as critical in the council’s ‘Safe and Healthy’ pillar, which is one of five that forms the council’s community strategic plan.
The centre’s income from user fees and sales was $1.55 million in FY2018 compared with $1.64 million in FY2017.
In 2015, the council endorsed numerous recommendations by Warren Green Consulting, which conducted an independent review of Oasis to counter a deficit of nearly $1 million in 2013–14.
Recommendations included raising user fees across a number of programs. Prices in 2018–19 are also higher than four years ago.
Wagga Mayor Greg Conkey said it was an expensive operation to run.
“By running it seven days a week and 364 days of the year, it is expensive unfortunately,” Cr Conkey said.
“We do lose money on it.”
However, Cr Conkey said the council and its staff were looking at ways to improve “activities to attract those who are not there”.
“No doubt we’ll be looking at a slide somewhere down the track and maybe another water feature outside,” he said.
We do lose money on it.Wagga City Mayor Greg Conkey
“These are things we’re looking at and we need to find a budget for it - those additions would boost numbers, I’m sure.”
Asked if the council would reconsider privatisation or a private-public approach, Cr Conkey said “we’ll look at all options”
“I know other other councils lease out their facilities to private operators to run and it’s something that this council will no doubt look at some time in the future,” he said.
“It’s not on the agenda at this stage but it has been raised and discussed.”
A council spokesperson said the decreased Swim and Survive bookings was due to having only three sessions rather than four this year.
“Council continues to look at, and consider, strategies to promote the Oasis,” the spokesperson said.
“One example is the recent Happy Hour promotion, which encouraged attendance during the cooler months,” the spokesperson said.
“Council operations is planning to upgrade the facility.
“This includes new tiling, which is a recommendation in a report to go before council for approval.
“Other initiatives will be recommended for inclusion in the Bolton Park Master Plan.”
Wagga City Council annual report 2017–18
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