The McArthur Pool and Leisure Centre recorded a bumper season over December 2011 and January 2012, overcoming challenges at cusp of its seasonal opening, to deliver the ideal seaside family chill-out location overlooking Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay’s Kings and Denville beaches.
The municipality and Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism (NMBT) pulled out all the stops to ensure the Centre, also known as McArthur Baths, would open in time for the festive season.
“We are not able to control the fate of some of the city’s tourism assets, but we work hard to safeguard those we are able to mobilise around. That’s why we collaborated closely with the municipality to make sure McArthur Baths was up and running for summer and that holiday-makers had variety in their leisure options,” said Titus Chuene, NMBT marketing manager.
NMBT encouraged the Beach Office and municipality to protect the tourism landmark in October last year when it became clear that the pools faced some infrastructure challenges.
“The city has lost key tourism products in the past year, most notably the Apple Express and Bayworld Oceanarium,” said Chuene. “We could not afford to let another asset fail to be operational, so the municipality moved to make sure certain issues, like a sewerage spill, filter and pump mechanism problems, and the cleanliness of the pools were addressed in early November.
“It also gave the instruction for a tender to be issued for operation of the facility while at the same time taking interim responsibility for the pools while the tender process is underway. The results speak for themselves.”
On New Year’s Day the centre tallied R36 000 and over the entire season (December and January) it generated R498 315. “We also hosted 10 526 adults and 11 637 children over the December January period,” said Leon Botha, McArthur Pool and Leisure Centre manager. “This shows just how popular the pools were over the IRB Sevens which played a big role, the festive season and beyond.”
Fernando Cain, municipal beach manager, said it was vital McArthur Baths opened for the holiday season. “It has been a feature of our beachfront and a part of the city offering for many years. Annual events like Iron Kids would have nowhere to go if it had to close. Its proximity to beaches also makes it a great tourist attraction – we had no option but to make sure it opened.”
He added some people prefer the privacy of swimming and sunbathing at the centre and the controlled environment is great for little children, making it a hit with families. “Not to mention the view from the pools.”
In June last year, the previous operating sub-contractor Bel-Essex, which managed McArthur Baths for 10 years, did not renew its contract. “We didn’t expect them not to renew their lease; they have been running the pools for us for such a long time,” said Botha.
The municipality then appointed Kenny Iverson, who served as the pools Superintendent before Bel-Essex took over the management. “When they contacted me, I knew I had to jump in. I remember swimming here as a small boy… and I’m not a young man anymore,” he quipped. “This place has so much to offer, it is like the classic or antique furniture of Port Elizabeth, we must look after it.”
In all the summer season proved to be a huge success for McArthur Baths, with Botha confirming the city has big plans for the pools. “They are in a much better condition than when we got them, but we are still hoping to re-tile them in this next year.
“We really can’t complain – everything went swimmingly. Especially on New Year – the pool never opened on this day in previous years and it was a major success.”
NMBT complemented municipal efforts to get the Centre operational by promoting it over the season and focusing on attracting tourists. Tourism students were also hired as cashiers to help out over the season in addition to the normal staff.
“It is critical that we provide tourists with the best beachfront experience possible. McArthur Bath’s is a key tourism node on the beachfront and a safe venue for families wanting to swim, relax and holiday.
“As part of the beachfront for decades, McArthur’s still stands a chance to be part of it for decades to come if we continue to work together to protect our precious assets,” added Chuene.
Maintenance of the facility is currently under the municipality’s sports, recreation, arts and culture directorate until the new lease is awarded.