Town’s new pool popular

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Wanaka’s new pool has been very popular since opening in June, recreation centre manager Jason Lawless says.

About 400 people had signed up to memberships and 1300 people had bought 10-visit concession cards.

Casual swims were also popular with both locals and tourists.

“We’ve exceeded projections.”

There were 9500 swims in October, compared with 2500 at the old pool in October last year, Mr Lawless said.

Given Wanaka’s population of 9000, more than one in five residents were using the pool regularly, including members, concession passes and at swim schools, he said.

The new pool had eight lanes, a purpose-built learn to swim pool, and a hot pool.

About 10 groups were using the pool regularly, including two swimming schools, athlete clubs, physiotherapists and their clients, and local schools.

The pool was also being used for birthday parties, guides and brownies, senior groups and people with disabilities.

The swimming schools were operating well, with 450 enrolments at the Wanaka Swim School run by Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) and 300 at the Wanaka Swim Academy.

Academy owner Stacey Wells, of Wanaka, said having the learners’ pool – which could be set at a warmer temperatures and allowed children to stand up – was “really great”.

“It is going really well over there, it is a beautiful facility, really, really nice to work in.”

The new pool had brought in parents with babies and younger children who “wouldn’t normally be swimming”.

The pool was well used at popular times of the day after school.

“It does get pretty crowded at times,” Mrs Wells said.

Before the new pool opening, a public petition with about 1400 names had helped reverse a recommendation from an evaluation panel to the council that only Wanaka Swim School would provide learn-to-swim courses, and the two schools had been able to run side by side.

Mrs Wells had not been advised of the future situation for her school.

But QLDC sport and recreation manager Simon Battrick said a new expression of interest for provision of a learn-to-swim school was being developed.

“We are looking more closely at the scope of learn-to-swim services in terms of progression all the way through to ‘squad’ level,” he said.

Triathlon coach Tim Brazier, of Wanaka, said the pool was a great addition to the community and the council had been “fantastic to work with”.

“We can already see a huge increase in use, which shows that the new pool was really needed.”

At peak hours in the morning from 6am to 8am the pool was full, he said.

“We could nearly do with two more lanes to allow more people to enjoy the facility.

“However the numbers do significantly drop at 8am, so maybe we will have to be smart about pool usage.”

He thought the pool would need to grow soon.

“At first a separate learners’ pool to the kids’ play pool would be the way to go to accommodate the growing young community of Wanaka.”

Managing peak times was a challenge for any pool regardless of population size, Mr Lawless said.

“Everybody wants to swim after school.”

A top priority was enabling swimming lessons to take place after school.

“The other pool didn’t have a specialised learn-to-swim pool, and so the design of this facility was to cater for kids learning to swim in this community, which was highlighted as a primary need.”

Even during busy periods the aim was to ensure there were at “least a couple of lanes free” in the lap pool for the public to use.

“There is a real learning curve for us and for the community to say ‘how do we best utilise this pool, and what is the right time to go?’.”

“This pool for a lot of the time is kind of quiet, but at those peak times, if you are going to come down between 3pm and 6pm it is going to be busy, and there is going to be limited space, and that doesn’t matter whether you are in a small town or a large city.”