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28 Sept 2022

Rising energy costs and staff challenges for Laois leisure centres

Rising energy costs and staff challenges for Laois leisure centres

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Energy costs and staff retention are expected to put pressure on Laois Leisure swimming pools and gyms in the coming year.

After a controversial closure two years ago having run dry of funding with the loss of 30 jobs, Portlaoise Leisure Centre reopened earlier this year but challenges remain, the new manager has stated.

Sean Quirke was already manager of Portarlington Leisure Centre and on request of Laois County Council, he and a new board took on the shut down Portlaoise centre, oversaw extensive repairs, hired staff and reopened it last February.

Now both centres are operated under the same umbrella, seven days a week with members free to use either one.

In July he came to Laois County Council's monthly meeting to give a progress update when he revealed both the positives and challenges faced.

He describes the challenges remaining into the future.

"Laois Leisure faced many challenges coming out of Covid restrictions which were unprecedented. Opening the second site needed work on the building and on staffing to get it back to safe operating levels. We are upskilling staff too. One challenge at a time of full employment is our ability to attract and retain staff.

"Energy costs are also a challenge, we are vulnerable to price rises. We will be looking at the energy profile of Portlaoise Leisure Centre. We have solar panels in Portarlington.

"But we are starting to see the benefits of the work gone in," Sean Quirke said.

"Finance is perfectly in line with projections and activity and usage is where we expected it to be. The growth of swimming lessons and Rookie Lifeguard lessons has helped to serve the community and our finances. Laois Sports Partnership is a key funding channel.

"Both sites are open seven days a week and members have access to both as well as pay as you go access to the gym and pool. Swimming lessons are one of the core facilities provided because we want people to be safe in and around water. It is very heartening to see the return to school and public lessons. The response is very strong," the manager said.

In Portlaoise they rolled out a rookie lifeguard course, and it got completely booked out.

"That also leads to better water safety. We have 400 participants in our weekly swimming lessons and we are setting up more for September, to catch up on the lack of lessons during Covid. We will also do an enhanced offer on the gym in September," he said.

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