The permanent closure of the City of Gold Coast’s Woongoolba Aquatic Centre has left locals feeling disappointed and potentially facing a long, hot summer.
The Woongoolba pool, which opened 50 years ago in 1970, has been a social hub for local schools, families and businesses in the area, which is a coastal rural area in the northern part of the Gold Coast.
The pool has already been closed and drained, despite the fact that the council’s new regional Pimpama Sports Hub, which will include new swimming facilities, will not open until next year.
Division One Gold Coast City Councillor Mark Hammel said he was sad that the decision had to be made.
“It is very sad to see the Woongoolba Pool close,” Cr Hammel said.
“I learned to swim here, so [I] totally understand the feelings of the local community,” he said.
“However, to put things into perspective, Woongoolba cost $23 per visit to the rate payer, while other public pools in the city are less than a dollar per person to subsidise.
“With less than 10,000 patrons per year, Woongoolba Aquatic Centre has the lowest cost recovery rate and highest costs to operate per patron of all the city’s aquatic centres.
“It costs the community more than $320,000 in rate payer funds to operate each year and recovers only $56,000 from entries and sales.
“The City of Gold Coast also invested significantly in Pimpama Sports Hub as a regional facility, which will open next year and is specifically designed to be a world-class community asset for hundreds of thousands of people to benefit from,” he said.
Former Woongoolba Pool employee Samantha Keys* said the pool was an iconic meeting place for locals.
“The atmosphere at the pool is really nice,” Ms Keys said.
“Because it’s so small and the town is so small, everyone knows each other,” she said.
“I would see my [swimming] students at the pool, and then see them around the town.”
In the neighbouring suburb of Pimpama, a new multi-million-dollar sports complex will be opened next year, including a new pool for locals.
“People will go to Pimpama, but it becomes like a transaction at bigger pools,” Ms Keys said.
“At Woongoolba, when doing swimming lessons, there are only five kids in the entire pool,” she said.
“At other pools, you might have 100 kids in a pool at once.”
Ms Keys said accessing the new pool in Pimpama would also be difficult for locals.
“They [the Gold Coast City Council] are saying they are closing the pool because it’s not financially viable, but if you look at the ratio of people attending the pool with the population of the town, it would be quite similar to a suburb like Pimpama,” Ms Keys said.
“A large percentage of parents I met with from Ormeau and Pimpama said that it’s faster for them to get to Woongoolba than it is for them to travel anywhere around Ormeau and Pimpama because the traffic is so congested around the highway,” she said.
“Council might think they are putting in a service closer to you, but it actually takes longer to get there.”
Ormeau resident Paula Galea said the pool was responsible for a lot of her children’s memories growing up.
“My two kids used the pool quite often over the past 14 years we have lived here,” Mrs Galea said.
“They had their school swimming carnivals there growing up, so we have a lot of fond memories,” she said.
“The kids used to meet up with their friends at the pool, it was a really social place.
“It’s really sad that a place where we hold so many fond memories, will no longer be around.”
Local resident Eliza Ward said the pool would be missed by the local community.
“My son has been going to the pool since he was two years old,” Ms Ward said.
“The swim teacher there was amazing, and at two years old he was already swimming laps of the pool,” she said.
Ms Ward said the pool was a great social point for many locals.
“I know of a group of mums from Woongoolba State School who had a ‘Friday Fun Day’ [there] every Friday after school,” she said.
“They would go down with their kids after school with some nibblies, it was a great social meet up.”
Ms Ward said while the new complex would be nice, it wouldn’t have the same local feel as the Woongoolba Aquatic Centre.
“It is going to be cool having this new [Pimpama Sport] complex, but it’s going to be impersonal,” she said.
“At Woongoolba, you knew the other people there, you knew the workers and it was friendly.
“This [Pimpama Sport Complex] will just be a business.
“It will be sad.”
*Name changed due to privacy reasons.