On Wednesday, this week, the Leisure Centre held its first customer forum under the new management team from Stevenage Leisure (SL). And all the signs are for a positive future for the centre.
The aim of the forum is for the audience to be a critical friend for the Centre, to be a voice for all the different kinds of sports that are run there, and are hoped to be run there.
The Leisure Centre reopened on April 16th this year after a refurbishment with capital from Central Bedfordshire Council. A lick of paint has worked wonders on its own, and the added new equipment of a 66 station gym NEW GYM MATS and SPINNING studio is already drawing in plenty of new clientel. And at £17.99 per month for unlimited gym with no joining fees, free car parking, badminton and squash, it's no wonder. And the added bonus is that at present new people can currently get gym induction (4 sessions training you how to use the equipment) for FREE, whereas elsewhere you could easily expect to pay £50 for that alone.
The Chair and Vice Chair of the Action Group trying out the new gym
Right. That's the advert over. What did people ask about at the forum?
Inevitably, several people raised the question of the swimming pool, but for the present management team, their contract is just to run the dry side of the sports centre until 31st March 2013. Obviously, they are looking to make a success of the operation in order to be considered for further contracts to run the place beyond that time. In the meantime, reopening the attached empty swimming pool will remain the end goal for the action group by encouraging higher use of all the facilities there, according to Mr Hallam, the vice-chairman of HRLCAG.
Until the Centre is viable, CBC won't look at putting cash into the swimming pool. Adrian Lear, Leisure Management Contracts Officer at Central Bedfordshire Council threw down a challenge to the meeting, "Give me 1500 users of the gym and they'll have to look at the swimming pool!"
STAFF AND MANAGEMENT: Currently the staff are working very hard to make the place a success, some offering extra hours beyond their shifts because they know the place is busy. Recruitment is to take place over the next few weeks for people to lead various sessions. Already plenty of interest from people working elsewhere who would like to work in Houghton Regis. A three month activity timetable has been set up to deal with health and safety issues, marketing, customer care, staff training. Programmes will generally be looked at every 6 months to see what activities are working, and which are not.
KEY CARDS: There are no plans for key cards at the moment. They are looking at Active Key.
FITNESS CLASSES: These will be developing. More slots have been identified and need to be advertised. With more staff fitness programmes can be worked on.
ZUMBA: Needs more space, and they have some school hall space to use.
YOGA: More difficult to get instructors. Depends on their availability.
PILATES: being done, but some concern at the small size of the present room (only holds 8 people).
AGE RELATED: SL are not keen to promote age related activities, preferring to be more inclusive.
LADIES GYM NIGHT? Probably not; to exclude some people could have a negative effect. SL want to be friendly towards everyone.
PROVISION OF A BIKE RACK: To be looked into.
CAR BOOT IN THE HALL?: Needs availability, and the Centre is getting booked up rapidly.
TEA DANCE? It's in the mix!
PROMOTION: Will be up to availability of staff; plan to be at the Carnival; and to promote to schools/ colleges.
BADMINTON: Lighting may be an issue.
TENNIS: Short tennis could be offered, it depends on what people request on the cards available at the refurbished reception area.
BOXING: Squash courts are too small, and currently no space elsewhere for it on Wednesdays.
MEMBERSHIP: Currently it is "open access"; SL have no plans at present for "family" or "junior" membership rates.
CHILDRENS PROGRAMME: Being built up as people ask for it. Nothing yet allocated for mini-gym. SL cannot run an OFSTED play scheme this summer.
TRAMPOLINING: starting this month.
COMMENTS: Comment cards, and a comment book are at the reception area.
DISCLAIMER: This write up is provided from my own notes at the meeting. It does not represent or seek to misrepresent anyone or any organisation. If there is an error in something written above, please let me know so that I can correct it. The official minutes of the meeting were to be posted by SL in the reception area