Due to rising utility costs, the Bendigo East Swimming Pool Committee and the City of Greater Bendigo have agreed to transition Bendigo East pool to operating seasonally and open only during the summer months going forward.
It has become too expensive to open the outdoor, gas-heated pool year-round and the pool will close for the winter season on Friday April 12, 2024.
Manager Active and Healthy Communities Amy Johnston said the Committee and City staff had met several times over the past six months to consider a range of scenarios to maintain the pool’s year-round operations.
"Options included lowering the temperature of the pool, therefore using less gas, and reducing the pool’s operating hours, but such changes were deemed not to have enough impact on overall operating costs to remain open year-round," Ms Johnston said.
"The pool will transition to operating seasonally and open during the warmer months, similar to other seasonal pools across Greater Bendigo. The Committee and City staff will use the coming months to determine the length of the 2024/2025 summer season, based on what is affordable as it is intended that the pool remain heated."
The City provides approximately $167,000 to the Committee to operate the pool year-round on behalf of the community. The Committee also receives an income through lane hire, venue hire for swimming carnivals, season passes and year-round memberships, kiosk sales and general admission.
An additional, once-off payment, over and above annual financial support, was provided by the City to the Committee in late 2023 to assist with rising utility costs.
However, the City’s annual allocation, additional once-off payment and other income generated by the pool have not been enough to maintain the pool's year-round operations.
Committee President Troy Allan said the volunteer Committee could not afford to continue to operate the heated, outdoor pool year-round within the current budget.
"The overall costs to run an outdoor heated pool have risen significantly over the past few years,” Mr Allan said.
"The Bendigo East Swimming Club will relocate to Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre for winter training, and we can hopefully assist our other regular users find alternative local winter training locations.
"The City of Greater Bendigo Active and Healthy Communities team has expressed a willingness to help assist our lifeguards to find alternative work with other providers during the winter months.
"Those patrons who have Bendigo East Swimming Pool extended season passes can use the final month of their pass at the Faith Leech Aquatic Centre or make contact if they wish to receive a pro rata refund.
"We encourage all our regular patrons to sign up to our Facebook page or to put their contact details on the list at the pool so that we can inform them about summer season passes before we open again later in the year."
It is important to note, this decision relates only to Bendigo East pool and there are no plans to change or review operations for any other City pools run by a Committee of Management.
In line with the recently adopted Community Aquatic Facilities Strategy, it is still intended for Bendigo East pool to transition to a non-heated, seasonal pool once Brennan Park pool receives its planned redevelopment.
As outlined in the strategy, the Bendigo East Pool Committee is still expected to transition to running Brennan Park pool year-round on behalf of the community when the redevelopment is complete and there will be a call for a new committee to form at Bendigo East. If a new committee cannot be formed, then the Bendigo East pool will close.
A review of whether Brennan Park pool can run sustainably as an outdoor, heated (although not gas heated) year-round pool following its redevelopment will be considered as part of project planning and operations. The redevelopment is expected to be a multi-million-dollar project and is subject to funding, it is hoped the project can be completed by 2028.