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Future of Baltimore swimming pool uncertain due to rising energy costs

June 7th, 2022 7:56 AM

By Emma Connolly

Staff member Shane Hurley outside the Wild Atlantic Pool’s sauna facility which is currently closed in an attempt to reduce overall running costs. (Photo: Anne Minihane)

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BALTIMORE’S community swimming pool and fitness centre is struggling to keep afloat amid the burden of soaring energy prices.

Management at the Wild Atlantic Pool say the fitness centre’s future is at risk and they’ve had to close the steam room and limit the use of the jacuzzi and sauna in a bid to cut costs.

Staff are turning off lights wherever they can and are only turning on equipment in the gym when necessary.

Combined, this means that half of the facilities are not in use. The restricted opening hours at Dunmanway’s pool and closure of the pool in Schull had highlighted the importance of the centre in providing leisure and instructional swimming. Ten local schools use the facilities, including ones from Cape Clear and Castletownshend, with queues for lessons. Having to close for Covid meant a loss in revenue, but the huge popularity of the public and school lessons when the pool reopened meant that the sauna was renovated and the steam room reopened.

With new staff coming on board, a busy season was anticipated at the pool, which is run by a board of directors who are also local pool users.

Although the centre has a large array of solar panels, triple glazed windows and energy-efficient heat pumps, the energy demand for heating the water, sauna and steam room is still considerable.

Manager Emma Bidwell said: ‘It is imperative that we increase our income and get some financial support, either from local businesses or government.

‘We are a community pool, not a private business, and we are providing tourism and local amenities with a hardworking and dedicated team.

‘This wonderful centre cannot be allowed to wither away over inflated energy costs.’

Baltimore resident, estate agent Maeve McCarthy said: ‘The community swimming pool at Baltimore is a vital resource for the local area.

‘As a parent of three children aged 11, 8 and 6, it would be devastating if the pool was closed.

‘Being from a coastal community it is so important for our children to learn how to swim from an early age, and it is imperative that the pool remains open.’

Solicitor and Skibbereen local Helen Collins praised staff member Shane Hurley for his personal training work with her in the gym after an accident.

‘Shane has been the saving of my life … I am stronger than I ever was,’ she said.

The committee now intends to organise a full community meeting to discuss the situation at a date to be announced.

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