A solution to the impasse between Leisureland and Galway’s aquatic clubs may be on the cards, following a recommendation that charges to clubs be cut.
The Salthill complex closed following severe storms in January 2014 and management announced price increases prior to reopening after refurbishment works in October last year, prompting clubs to withdraw from the facility.
In a bid to find a solution to the controversy, Galway City Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath appointed leisure expert Gar Holohan to carry out a ‘peer review’, and act as a mediator to resolve the impasse between Leisureland and the clubs.
The review, presented at Monday’s city council meeting, found the departure of the clubs has negatively impacted on the finances of both the clubs and Leisureland, with both sides wanting to see the clubs return to the facility on “mutually acceptable” terms.
The review proposes that the charge per lane per hour be reduced from €15 to €10, but found that Leisureland cannot discount the hire rates at peak times, 5.30pm-9pm Monday to Friday and weekends at 10am-4pm, if the facility “is to have an opportunity to optimise viability”.
It was therefore recommended that a fixed grant of €6,750 be allocated as part of Galway City Council’s annual subsidy to Leisureland to facilitate affordable access at peak times, as opposed to reducing the charges below market rates. This would see the peak time lane hire charge to clubs reduced from €30 to €22.50 per hour.
According to the review, a reduction of €5 per lane per hour for early morning bookings up to 8am would equate to a saving of €14,800 for the periods between 6am and 8am alone over 40 weeks. If the council agree to fund the subsidy for peak time hire, the clubs will benefit overall to the tune of around €21,500 per annum.
At Monday’s council meeting, councillors were generally supportive of the proposal to get clubs back using the facility with Labour Cllr Billy Cameron saying that Leisureland “should be a flagship facility” in Galway City.
Responding to the review, Vincent Finn, spokesperson for Swim Ireland, said they welcome the proposals, but there is still work to be done.
“The clubs no longer have teaching classes which would have been a source of income which would have been used to subsidise for the higher rates and would also have provided a pathway for young swimmers from learning to swim into competitive swimming,” he said.
Mr Finn also called for the rates to be pro rata so clubs are only paying for what they need in terms of swimming hours. “There’s still a good way to go just to finalise this but it’s nearly there,” he added.
The proposals will now be considered by the new board of Salthill Fáilte Ltd, which was appointed at Monday’s meeting following the resignation of five members last December, with members due to report back at the next city council meeting in July.