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Swim clubs say fees will sink them

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Photo: Stuart Walmsley

The ACT's largest swim club believes lane-hire fees and strict policing of a ''shortfall'' charge if they don't meet a swimmers-per-lane criteria could threaten the viability of swim clubs at two of the territory's public pools.

For the past month, clubs at the government-owned Lakeside Leisure Centre in Tuggeranong and Canberra Olympic Pool have suffered strict enforcement of a previously rarely applied shortfall charge.

The charge applies if there are fewer than five swimmers in a 25-metre lane or 10 in a 50-metre lane, which the pools average for the hire period after a count each half-hour, then charge $2.90 for every swimmer short.

The pools are managed by The Club Group on behalf of the ACT government, and are home to clubs including the Tuggeranong Vikings, the largest swim club with 160 members, based at Lakeside.

''In the last couple of weeks … we've seen our bill go up from around the $600-$650 per week to $850 - that works out to be roughly [an additional] $10,000 per year,'' Vikings president Fiona Johnstone said.

They are trying to absorb the costs, but think it will likely mean an increase to their squad fees, now around $300 per quarter for the top swimmers, in addition to pool admission costs swimmers also pay.

Vikings head coach David Murphy fears it will limit the growth of the sport or force people out, as squad sessions become overcrowded to avoid shortfall charges.

''It is impractical to put an 11-year-old swimmer in the same lane as 13-18-year-old Australian age medallist,'' Mr Murphy said. ''There is no way a young swimmer can train at the pace of a mature swimmer.''

Clubs can hire two lanes at a not-for-profit rate of $1.80 per hour in Lakeside's more common 25-metre configuration, and $12 an hour for additional lanes.

They are increased prices from last year, but ones that The Club Group says are still low enough to potentially bring poor lane management by clubs without the shortfall fees, with lanes a limited resource.

''Lane hirers were not making efficient use of the lane space, which meant the public generally had to squeeze into two or three lanes,'' Harry Konstantinou, managing director of The Club Group, said.

''The aim of the shortfall is to provide fair and equitable access to the facilities not just for lane hirers but for the entire public.''

The Vikings say there are few swimmers using the public lanes at the Tuggeranong pool in the mornings anyway, making shortfall charges unjustified.

But Mr Konstantinou says that is due to the lane management issue not being properly addressed

''The public has known that there are no lanes available, they don't want to squash up so they don't bother coming at that time,'' he said.

''[They have] been trained that in the mornings and certain times in the evenings you can't get a lane, so they don't come.''

The ACT government approved the charges, and a spokesman for Sport and Recreation Services said discussions were under way to address the surcharge issue.

12 comments

  • These clubs do not understand that run a swim pools is very expensive operation. These clubs wants everything free, nothing is free these days. Wake up and stop complaining.

    Commenter
    Robilant
    Date and time
    August 08, 2013, 9:36AM
    • We know it is not free, that's why we are already paying for lane hire. For our small club, that is $6,000 a year plus the entry fee every time we enter the pool.

      Commenter
      Jennifer
      Date and time
      August 08, 2013, 10:41AM
    • Think about it: club swimmers pay three times:

      1. they pay entry (at the same rate as the general public)
      2. they pay for lane hire (through their fees) and
      3. if a lane is not 'crowded enough' they pay an 'underutilisation' charge.

      What a joke! as XYZ pointed out, nowhere in Australia is this model used! The clubs usually pay coaches the minimum wage. So there is no room to cut wage cost without increasing the swimmer : coach ratio behind recommend Royal Life / Australian swimming levels.

      The clubs are non-profit, so if the rates keep going up they have to put fees up. Maybe the goal is to force the non-profit club fees up to a point where they are more expensive than the centre's own programs? (which do not of course have to pay for lane hire).

      The pools are public facilities. The clubs should be allowed access to them on non-commerical terms as they provide a non-commerical sevice (and yes, I know they compete with programs run by the centres, but that is a good thing!)

      Commenter
      FD
      Date and time
      August 08, 2013, 4:50PM
  • Having worked in aquatics around Australia... no where else imposes an 'under utilisation' charge. Sure there needs to be effecient usage of the lanes, but can't they average it over the booking each club makes? if they have 10 young swimmers in one lane and 5 bigs teenagers in another, surely they can average the numbers accross the booking?

    FYI, a number of council pools give lane space to clubs for free. yes, you read it right, for FREE. True, most charge, but the issue here is ensuring that organised sport has room to grow.

    I think this also shows what people in tuggeranong have known for a while, that south canberra is underserviced in terms of pools where you can pay money and go for a swim.

    South of lake BG there is: Phillip (50m, seasonal), Erindale (25m) and Tuggeranong (50m).
    North of lake there is: AIS (50m), Civic (50m), Dickson (50m, seasonal), CISAC (50m), Big Splah (50m, seasonal) and they are also building a 50m pool at Gungahlin.

    Maybe it's time for a 50m pool at Lanyon?

    Commenter
    XYZ
    Date and time
    August 08, 2013, 9:47AM
    • For the club that my son is a member of, the cost per year for the lanes with the supposed "shortfall" that requires 10 people per lane, will go from around $6,000 per year to about $23,000 per year. And this is above the entry fee that Konstantinou, with ACT government support, has recently increased. This is a government pool. Other councils such as Wagga Wagga don't even impose a lane charge on their clubs as a measure of supporting fitness and sport. How about Mr Barr tries to apply the same principle to our soccer clubs. If between the hours of 7 and 9 pm at night, clubs only have 80 players using the fields rather than 100, he would impose a user shortfall charge per hour on the clubs. Thanks Mr Barr for your community spirit! You've lost my support.

      Commenter
      Jennifer
      Date and time
      August 08, 2013, 10:39AM
      • Exactly. No other sport is treated so poorly.

        Commenter
        FD
        Date and time
        August 08, 2013, 4:52PM
    • Robilant - trust me, the pools are doing fine financially. Swim clubs bring large numbers of swimmers into the facility, all of which pay pool entry in addition to the lane hire fees. Freeing up lanes for recreational swimmers is a red herring - the pool makes far more money off the clubs than they do out of lap swimmers, and even at the busiest times it's extremely rare to see 10 people crammed into a public lane. The comment by David Murphy is spot on - it's simply not safe to cram a heap of swimmers with widely varying abilities into a squad lane. The fast swimmers don't get the workout they're paying for and the slow swimmers are constantly being swum over, pushed into the lane ropes, and clashing heads when overtaking maneuvers go wrong.

      The Club Group knows full well there aren't enough pools to go around and as such are prepared to engage in unconscionable conduct in order to maximise profit. Hopefully the new Gungahlin pool eases some of the pressure, and it would be nice to see the AIS expand their opening hours to allow greater public access during peak times to such a fantastic facility (especially when they have a multi-million dollar scientific pool next door which could quite easily be used for squads but NEVER gets used).

      Commenter
      Joe Bloggs
      Date and time
      August 08, 2013, 12:10PM
      • Exactly, couldn't have said it better myself. However, I think south Canberra needs pools more than the north at this point in time!

        Commenter
        XYZ
        Date and time
        August 08, 2013, 5:12PM
    • Regularly a large part of the pool is set aside for lap swimmers, the fee paying public is packed in the rest of the pool like sardines and are not permitted to enter the swimmers lanes. If they don't have enough swimmers to justify the space, MAKE THEM PAY EXTRA!

      Commenter
      David
      Date and time
      August 08, 2013, 3:04PM
      • They already do. I think the key issue you are missing is that they are not averaging the numbers, so when there are more in one lane (little kids) and less in another (bigger kids) the clubs get slugged.

        Commenter
        XYZ
        Date and time
        August 08, 2013, 5:13PM

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