THE success of Dunmanway’s fully reopened pool can be measured by the fact that more than 1,000 people registered for swimming classes over the next five weeks.
But on the downside, Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind) said that the single landline at the West Cork Regional Leisure Centre in Dunmanway proved to be a woefully inadequate instrument to deal with the level of demand.
One parent phoned 300 times before getting through to secure a place for their child in one of the classes, he said.
That wasn’t a one-off either, according to the councillor, who said he had spoken to another person who made 195 calls, while another who rang 190 times before getting through. The councillor attributed the high volume of calls to parents simply being ‘persistent.’
Cllr Hurley, speaking at a meeting of the West Cork Municipal District on Monday, suggested one solution would be to install a new IT system, that would allow parents and individuals to book their swimming classes online.
In addition, Cllr Hurley called for the introduction of membership packages because they are less expensive for individuals and families, and would also generate additional revenue for the amenity which is currently being heavily subsidised by Cork County Council. He attributed the high level of demand to the ‘historic waiting list that relates to the previous pool.
‘Then,’ he added, ‘Covid meant the pool wasn’t available – or was only partially available – for the last two years. And, on top of that, there’s an increase in interest in people learning how to swim properly.’
Cllr Hurley acknowledged that some people might go to other pools – including the community-run Wild Atlantic Pool in Baltimore – instead of waiting for another five weeks for a new round of classes to become available in Dunmanway. But he made the point that the Dunmanway centre needs to start paying for itself and should be ‘marketed more.’
He also suggested that additional customers and new membership fees will be needed to offset rising energy costs.
‘It’s my view,’ he said, ‘that the Council was not adequately prepared for the tsunami of phone calls that came in to book the lessons.
‘Not everyone who wanted classes got them,’ he added, ‘but the Council should be looking at ways to make the pool in Dunmanway pay for itself because it cannot afford to turn business away.’
A spokesperson for Cork County Council also noted that it, as a public authority, ‘cannot endorse another private entity.’
When booking for swimming lessons reopens in five weeks’ time, Declan Hurley said it will be a case of ‘first come first served.’ Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Wild Atlantic Pool in Baltimore said it too has ‘huge demand and a waiting list of nearly 100 children and adults’ for classes.
‘What we need,’ said the spokesperson, ‘are qualified swimming teachers to run the classes because most of my teaching staff are students and can only do Saturday mornings. We therefore struggle to give lessons during the week,’ she added.
‘Some of our staff are currently training to become Swim Cert 2s as they are already on the team and we also need Swim Cert 2s to be lesson leaders.
‘We have offered full and part-time jobs that include training as part of the contract but as yet have been unsuccessful in hiring,’ said the spokesperson.
‘One idea going forward is that ourselves and Dunmanway could perhaps share the funding to train freelance teachers to get their qualifications, who would not be contracted to either of us but would move between the two,’ she said.
‘It’s hoped that we could get grants towards this in order to assist both facilities in their future provision of lessons.’