Latest News

Back to Latest News back

 

Opinion: Are today’s aquatic recreation centres really serving the community?

Opinion: Are today’s aquatic recreation centres really serving the community?
November 14, 2021

Dr Ken Marriott asks whether today’s modern aquatic and recreation centres are really serving the community?

The veteran industry consultant suggests that “the most simple answer to this question is ‘we really just don’t know’ while a more informed response, based on dozens of case studies, is most likely to be ‘largely not!’”

Dr Marriott writes: the ‘we really just don’t know’ response is based on the fact that the research has just not been done. Aquatic recreation centres are seen as a ‘public good’: they are considered to generate healthy outcomes, they get strong support from many in the community, they often make a profit, they are a service to the community. With such ‘strengths’, few of these centres have seen a need to delve into whether they are warranted, what they are really achieving, who for and whether it’s the most effective expenditure of community funds.

Here’s some of the questions that are not being asked or answered…which reams of evidence suggest are being ignored:

  • Has the provision been based on an extensive assessment of wide community needs (not just aquatic recreation) or is provision the result of pressure from certain interests in the community (such as swimming clubs, councillors, schools), the desire to look good in the eyes of the community, or the desire to have a venue just like the Council next door?
  • Has an assessment been made of whether provision of an aquatic centre is the best use of Council funds? Were for example, health, education, employment, transport and parking alternatives explored at the same time as aquatic provision?
  • Was an analysis of the projected return on investment made before development occurred and if not, why? If so, did the provision proposal “stack up”?
  • Why are so many of the modern aquatic recreation centres so similar… even down to nearly all being ‘ARCs’ … except in communities like Frankston? Why, even in municipalities with more than one such venue, are there so few differences between them?
  • Who are and who are not the clients - in terms of age, gender, socio-economic status, cultural backgrounds, physical abilities and disabilities, and why are there such big participation gaps across these groups? Interestingly, the same questions can be asked of management and staffing
  • Why are such tiny proportions of a venue’s catchment population members or regular users? How do these figures compare with other leisure and recreation provision?
  • What catchments are served and which are overlooked? How far do people come, what influences travel patterns and what does this say about the scale, mix and frequency of provision?
  • Perhaps most critically, what are the personal, psychological, health, economic and wellbeing beneficial outcomes derived from provision and do these accrue to the total community or just users?

Decades of involvement in planning and evaluating aquatic recreation centres suggests to the author that few Councils have the information to answer these questions. Yet the extensive anecdotal evidence that exists suggests that if they did have the answers, what they provide could well be very different. Being a ‘community good’ is just not good enough when billions of dollars has now been invested in these venues.

Editor’s note: Australasian Leisure Management welcomes opinion from professionals across the industry on topics they are knowledgeable and/or passionate about.

Email: leisure@ausleisure.com.au with your ideas, thoughts and/or contributions.

About the author

Dr Ken Marriott

Dr Ken Marriott trained as a geographer with special studies in urban land uses, agriculture and climatology.

Having, in 1979, completed a PhD in geography at Monash University, with his research focused on the effectiveness of then-current leisure and recreation planning strategies he went on to be Managing Director of the leisure planning consultancy HM Leisure Planning Pty Ltd from 1984 until his retirement in 2016.

His book, Community Leisure and Recreation Planning, co-authored with John Tower and Katie McDonald from Victoria University in Melbourne, was published by Routledge early in 2021. 

He wrote on the need for leisure and recreation planners and providers to drive effective action on climate change in Australasian Leisure Management issue 146.

He can be contacted on email at ken.marriott@hmleisureplanning.com 

2nd September 2021 - LEISURE AND RECREATION PLANNERS NEED TO TAKE MORE DECISIVE ACTION ON CLIMATE AND WEATHER CHANGE

19th December 2020 - NEW COMMUNITY LEISURE AND RECREATION PLANNING TEXT A PRODUCT OF AUTHORS’ DECADES OF EXPERIENCE

 

Read more from this author

Related Articles

14th November 2021 - IAKS releases project case studies from aquatic centres around the world

12th November 2021 - New Royal Life Saving research shows social impact of the aquatic industry

11th November 2021 - Swimplex Aquatics stays busy despite the challenges of the last 20 months

25th October 2021 - National Aquatic Industry Committee releases updated guidelines for managing the risk of COVID-19 in aquatic facilities

30th September 2021 - Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre redevelopment to deliver 6 Star Green Star building

16th September 2021 - City of Canterbury-Bankstown reveals concept design for leisure and aquatic centre redevelopment

13th September 2021 - Aquatics and Recreation Institute charts sector’s roadmap to reopening

10th September 2021 - Tender to be released for $15 million North Bellarine aquatic facility

6th September 2021 - 90% of aquatic facility owners, operators and staff heading towards becoming fully vaccinated

6th September 2021 - Queensland Aquatic Industry Alliance reports on success over past 18 months

2nd September 2021 - Leisure and recreation planners need to take more decisive action on climate and weather change

2nd September 2021 - City of Mandurah investigates cause of Aquatic and Recreation Centre’s roof damage

27th August 2021 - Port Hedland Council endorses aquatic facility masterplan

27th August 2021 - Aquatic and fitness facilities reopen as Northern Territory Government eases COVID restrictions in Greater Darwin and Katherine

23rd August 2021 - Royal Life Saving provides guidance on COVID-19 vaccinations and aquatic facilities

10th August 2021 - Aquatic industry delivers $9 billion in economic, health and social benefits to Australia

9th August 2021 - Y NSW calls on NSW Government to support the survival of community sport, aquatics and recreation sector

30th July 2021 - Council-owned company responsible for Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre operations goes into liquidation

19th December 2020 - New Community Leisure and Recreation Planning text a product of authors’ decades of experience

10th December 2020 - City of Wanneroo to survey residents for views on aquatic and sport facility design

31st August 2020 - National Sports Convention events to address the future of aquatic, recreation and sports facilities

18th June 2020 - Consultants Otium highlight how aquatic and recreation projects stimulate local communities

21st November 2019 - IAKS document charts future global trends for public pools

8th June 2019 - Recreation Aotearoa releases aquatic facility design guide

1st November 2013 - Frankston City Council names new aquatic centre

3rd October 2012 - Enrolments open for Recreation Planning Diploma


Asking a small favour
We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?

The news we publish at www.ausleisure.com.au is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.

Subscriptions cost just $90 a year.

Click here to subscribe.

 

supplier directory

The Complete Guide to Leisure Industry Products & Services.

See the directory see all

Spill Station Australia

Compliant chemical storage and decanting solutions. Includes spill kits, spill containment pallets, chemical decanting decks and safety shower and eyewash equipment. See our full range of solutions

read more

Aquatics / Safety / Security / Venues

 
 

BODY BIKE AUSTRALIA

BODY BIKE® International is a leading manufacturer of indoor bikes with a 20-year track record of creating the best indoor bikes. Stay connected with Body Bike Australia…

read more

Fitness / Recreation / Sport / Technology / Wellness

 
 

Augmented Creative

Augmented Creative is an open organization of like-minded and highly dedicated, creative people who conceive, plan and execute visual solutions. We pursue new and innovative visual ideas to help…

read more

Arts / Attractions / Consultants / Design / Tourism

 
 

BioLab Australia Pty Ltd

BioGuard is Australia and New Zealand’s most trusted supplier of premium, innovative and affordable commercial water treatment systems and chemicals. BioGuard offers a comprehensive range of…

read more

Aquatics / Technology / Waterparks

 
 

SeatGeek Asia Pacific

SeatGeek is a search engine and mobile-focused ticket marketplace that allows fans to buy and sell tickets for live events. As of August 2018, SeatGeek has exited the Australian, New…

read more

Entertainment / Sport / Technology / Ticketing / Venues

 
 

Vivaticket

As of the 1st July 2018, Enta Australasia Pty Ltd/Best Union has been rebranded as Vivaticket Pty Ltd.  Vivaticket is the ideal strategic partner for the organisation and management of your…

read more

Attractions / Entertainment / Sport / Ticketing / Venues

 
 

Altitude Training Systems

ATS are global leaders in altitude training and research. From mask systems and inflatable tents to simulated altitude facilities, we help all athletes gain the competitive edge. Our…

read more

Fitness / Sport / Technology

 
 

ProSlide Technology

ProSlide is the global leader in water ride design and manufacturing, supplying high-performance water attractions to new and expanding water parks around the world. For over three decades, ProSlide…

read more

Aquatics / Play / Waterparks

 
 
 
 

get listed with our suppliers directory

Get your business noticed in our targeted directory. Viewed by 10,000 industry professionals per week!

list your business