Thursday, July 22, 2021

By Carmel Hayes

THE only outdoor swimming pool in Laois has appealed to thoughtless ‘no shows’, who are costing the community facility much-needed cash and causing deep disappointment for others.

The voluntary committee running the pool in Ballinakill has had to turn down many bookings, only to find that others who booked didn’t bother turning up. The pool charges only €5 per session for adults and €3 for children.

As payment is made at the time of the session, it means that the parish-owned pool is taking in even less money to cover costs, at a time when capacity is already limited due to Covid restrictions.

The committee said: “It is both disappointing and upsetting for us to have to reply to the huge number of calls, messages and emails we receive throughout the day (and night!) with “sorry, we are fully booked” and then realise that not all the bookings were fulfilled.”

The problem is so serious that the committee has issued an open letter to all supporters of the Ballinakill pool, appealing to people to cancel bookings rather than not show up.

The letter from the Ballinakill Community Development Association CLG, posted on its Facebook page, says:

The swimming pool is very close to the hearts of everybody in Ballinakill and it is open now because of the dedication of our committee and the support of the community.

We do not want to use clichés to talk about the past 18 months but we would like to make you aware of some of the difficulties we faced and continue to face, as we try to manage the running of the pool this season.

Before we opened we spent many hours trying to put systems in place to keep everybody safe, maximise opening hours and keep to the guidelines and best practice of dealing with Covid-19.

The ones which caused greatest difficulty for us and between us were the booking system and pool capacity. It is now these two things which are causing difficulty in meeting the demands of our patrons – especially in weather such as we have at the moment.

We tried to choose a system which we felt would best suit everybody, while managing the numerous requirements of Covid legislation. We had serious concerns regarding what is now the “no show” reality but other factors had to be considered when selecting the system.

It is both disappointing and upsetting for us to have to reply to the huge number of calls, messages and emails we receive throughout the day ( and night!) with “sorry, we are fully booked” and then realise that not all the bookings were fulfilled.

We can only ask and emphasise the importance of making an accurate booking and cancelling it if, for whatever reason, you decide not to come to the pool.

“Our ‘adult only’ sessions also cause difficulty for the system as it does not allow us show ‘adult only’. The only way we can communicate a session being ‘adult only’ is through our Facebook and Instagram pages and by ‘word of mouth’. The timetable which is posted weekly on our pages shows the times of the ‘Adult Only’ sessions, so please keep an eye on this. Our 9am and 8pm sessions are generally ‘adult only’ but if you are unsure, please message this page before booking.

The demand for lessons and group bookings is also unprecedented and we are working hard to to facilitate everybody and reply to their queries as timely as is possible.

Covid continues to be a worry and we ask that you continue to adhere to ‘social distancing’ while queueing and on deck and to respect the requirements of the changing rooms being closed.

The difficulties we have regarding demand would probably be resolved by a few wet days, but we certainly won’t wish for that!

The most rewarding part of our work is seeing and hearing the excitement and happiness of a busy pool and we appreciate the huge support we are getting from so many of you.

Please share this message with those you know who use our pool.”

In a notice added yesterday, the committee said: “If you have booked as a family or have booked in children for Friday night’s 8pm session, could you please cancel your booking as it is adult only.

We have been experiencing difficulty with booking for our adult sessions and will put an alternative system in place for next week’s sessions. Details to follow.”

Originally a 45m pool and now a 30m adult pool with 10m toddler pool, the facility had been unused for about five years when the Ballinakill committee reopened it after refurbishment in 2019 and developed it as an invaluable asset for the community.

The restored outdoor swimming pool in Ballinakill

The community-run outdoor swimming pool in Ballinakill


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