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24 June 2020
By SARAH MATTHEWS
National-level Wimmera swimmers disadvantaged by a lack of access to training facilities are among pool users urging Horsham council to reopen the city’s aquatic centre.
Horsham Aquatic Centre remains closed despite the State Government allowing swimming pools to reopen to a maximum of 20 patrons on June 1.
The centre, which includes indoor and outdoor pools, a gym, group fitness classes and a creche, closed in March amid the growing coronavirus pandemic.
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Horsham Rural City Council owns the centre, which is run by YMCA Victoria. The partnership is designed to deliver affordable swimming and leisure facilities for the region.
Horsham Sharks Swimming Club president Jen Briggs said she had spoken with both YMCA and council leaders, urging them to reopen the centre.
“This is hugely disappointing for our club,” she said.
“We have about 65 members, which is a good size for a small town. The kids are just keen to get back into the water.”
Mrs Briggs said her son, Deacon, and Warracknabeal’s Lily Eldridge were among two national-level swimmers unable to prepare for the upcoming season.
“Unfortunately, this year’s nationals were cancelled a few weeks prior, which was very disappointing,” she said.
“Assuming this season goes ahead, we’ve got short-course country championships coming up next month.
“If that doesn’t go ahead, then after that we’ve got long-course championships coming up in January. The kids need to have access to the Horsham pool. Ararat’s pool has opened, Ballarat pools have opened, Melbourne pools are open. All their competitors are now getting a greater edge, when we were at a disadvantage to begin with.”
Lily’s mother Kelly Ough echoed Mrs Briggs’ statements, saying her daughter’s physical and mental health had deteriorated through a lack of access to the centre.
“Lily is a severe asthmatic and being out of a pool for so long has caused her to have numerous asthma attacks,” she said.
“Even Lily’s doctor has stressed it is of medical importance that she is able to swim. She is also now at a disadvantage with her competition swimming, as her competitors have all been in the pool since the start of June.”
Mrs Briggs said Kerryn Prouse of Horsham’s Prouse Swim School had opened up her pool to the region’s competitive swimmers, for free. She said, however, the pool was not long enough for competitive swimming training.
She urged Horsham council leaders to reconsider their decision.
“The council said to me that they’ll reassess in the middle of July when the next round of decisions comes out. Short of that, it might be the next one again, which is August,” she said.
“By then, for these kids, the next season is all over.
“The kids are keen – I just don’t understand why the council won’t come on board.
“We’re making a contribution every day in our rates. I think we should have a greater say in whether the aquatic centre is open or not.
“I’m talking about the pool, but it also has a gym and classes and all-round fitness. It’s not just the swimmers who are missing out, it’s the whole community.”
Horsham mayor Mark Radford said the council was keen to see the centre reopen, however, it needed to be financially viable.
“One of the risks is opening it and then having to make it more expensive for users, to cover the costs,” he said.
“The council is currently having to pay to maintain the centre even though the centre is closed. It’s tough – we have had letters, emails and calls from people who are very keen to get it open.”
Council communities and place director Kevin O’Brien said when considering use, affordability and cost, reopening the centre was not viable.
“Council is in regular discussions with the YMCA in relation to these matters so as to work towards a solution which will enable the facility to be reopened,” he said.
“It is expected that further information will be provided to the community in the coming days.”
The entire June 24, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!
The entire June 24, 2020 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!