Ballymena club swimmers ‘disappointed’ by ongoing pool closure

The head coach of Ballymena Swimming Club has described the ongoing closure of the pool at Seven Towers Leisure Centre as “disappointing”.

Commenting on the decision by Mid and East Antrim council to keep the borough’s three swimming pools shut until a meeting of the borough council next month, Louise McBride said: “We are really disappointed that we are closed again.

“This is the only area that does not have a swimming pool open. It is not a good decision.”

Swimmers from the Ballymena area have been travelling to Antrim Forum and Sixmile Leisure Centre in Ballyclare to train.

Seven Towers Centre, Ballymena

Mid and East Antrim’s leisure centres were shut for a second time last month in response to tighter restrictions announced by the Northern Ireland Executive when all sport below elite level was suspended due to the Covid pandemic.

Louise went to say that swimmers lose fitness “very quickly”.

“Our competitive swimmers are not going to be in a position to compete again. We have kids swimming at Division One level. They are in a disadvantaged situation.

“A lot of our kids say they need swimming for their mental health to release stress from school.

“My concern is that we will lose swimmers and kids will leave the club.

“It is very disappointing. I just think the council needs to be more engaged with the youth. I just don’t think they are engaged with our young people at all or understand what their needs are.”

Last week, Peter Hill, head coach of Larne Swimming Club said he believes that “the job of a council is to provide a service that ratepayers have paid for”.

The council says that it has decided to reopen its gyms but keep swimming pools closed at this time “due to low demand and high running costs”.

Mid and East Antrim Mayor Councillor Peter Johnston said: “As previously stated, the number of residents using our leisure centres since reopening earlier this year was extremely low, reflecting decreased public appetite for these services at the current time.

“Against that backdrop, we have had to take the decisions we have to protect public funds and safeguard services moving forward.”

Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Danny Donnelly commented: “We were very disappointed when the pools were closed again after only being open for a few weeks.

“As swimming pools are permitted to be open and indeed are open across the rest of NI, we have been pushing to get them reopened here too.

“These are important public services and contribute to the health and well-being of many people in the area.

“It’s not acceptable that they should be closed when there is no health advice to do so. It’s particularly hard on the swimming club athletes who have to travel to train for competitions including Olympic qualifiers.

“It will be debated again at the December council meeting and we hope that councillors will decide to reopen the pools if it is deemed safe to do so.”

Click here to read: Swimming club’s frustration as Larne pool remains closed

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter


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