THE SOUTH Gippsland Bass Swimming Club is one of the best and fastest growing in Victoria, yet it’s battling to stay afloat due to steep lane fees at SG Splash.
Committee member Drew Liepa outlined the predicament to South Gippsland Shire councillors last week.
He said the club paid the $22,000 last financial year in lane hire fees at the Leongatha facility, while club members were still getting stung for pool entry.
In contrast, the club also runs training sessions at the Wonthaggi Aquatic Centre where there are no lane hire fees.
Mr Liepa said annual memberships are high to subsidise for the use of the Leongatha pool, and the cost is quickly taking the sport out of reach of many families.
He and head coach Dylan Muir presented a petition to the council signed by members requesting a review of the fee structure at SG Splash.
“Lane hire fees are $18 per hour to train at the facility and kids still pay entry between three and five times a week which is a massive cost burden for families on top of their membership.
“Lane hire fees are not common. We’ve done some research that has included facilities from Wangaratta to Sale and beyond, and no other shires are imposing this fee on swimming clubs.
“I’m aware the council has confirmed our research.”
Mr Liepa said the impact on the club was “massive”.
“Swimming is becoming out of reach for some families. When families leave, we always ask why, and it’s because of the cost.”
He said the fees were also preventing the club from growing.
“There’s a lot of demand and we’re struggling to manage that. We have six morning sessions at Wonthaggi each week but only two in Leongatha because we can’t afford to offer them.”
He said that was having an impact on high school students whose priority after school is homework.
“As kids age and reach high school, their homework loads increase and we find that they fall away drastically.”
Mr Liepa said that if more lanes could be made available, the council would receive more revenue through increased patronage and entry fees.
“SG Splash is the premier facility in the area. Yeah, it’s small, but we could get 50 more swimmers in here four times a week, and through door entry alone there’d be $30,000 more for the council each year.”
Dylan Muir has been the head coach for the past six years and in that time he’s seen membership grow from 45 to 200, but it can’t grow any more.
“Of our 101 swimmers who use SG Splash, 69 of them are 12 years old or under. Those aged 13 years plus need more lane space but we can’t afford the lane hire.
“The juniors are at bursting point. If there’s a waiting list, we’ll lose kids to other sports.
“We are capable of rapid expansion with the support of the South Gippsland Shire Council.”
Tim Frampton is the general manager of Swimming Victoria and he was pleased to support the campaign for a review.
“I didn’t hesitate to come down here. Our regional clubs are very important to us and Gippsland is our biggest region with a great history.
“South Gippsland Bass is one of the fastest growing in the state and one of the largest in Gippsland.
“We’ve done an audit of all the clubs in the state and South Gippsland Bass is in the top 10 in terms of governance.
“I’ve heard excellent things about Dylan’s programs and I’m not surprise people travel up to an hour to get there.”
Mr Frampton said swimming can be an expensive sport at the elite level; as much $5000 annually for families in memberships, pool fees and competition costs.
“We’ll support anything that will ease the burden and help us and our swimmers.”
Cr Ray Argento accepted the petition and will present it to the council on behalf of the club at this week’s council meeting.
CrLorraine Brunt said it was an impressive presentation.
“You did a brilliant job explaining the situation and we are listening.”