All quiet on leisure centre future
USERS of Moray Leisure Centre in Elgin remain in the dark about whether the facility will close.
Taxpayers fund an annual subsidy, this year £698,000, via Moray Council to Moray Leisure Ltd to run the centre on an “arm’s length agreement”.
The council made the deal 25 years ago but it ends next July and speculation is rife that the centre may close before then because of finances.
The centre has a board of seven directors – four from the private sector and three councillors. The councillors – Amy Patience, Walter Wilson and Frank Brown – issued a joint statement this week.
It said: “It is clear there are some serious cash flow and capital issues facing the centre. Advisers are working with the board to find a way forward.”
The centre has the only public swimming pool in Elgin and the only ice rink in Moray.
Graeme Summers, who runs Moray Figure Skating Club along with his sister Sue, is one of many who are worried about the centre’s future.
He said: “We have five skaters competing at the British championships next month. That’s more than some big cities.
“To compete at that level you have to be on the ice for at least 15 hours a week. If the rink in Elgin closes, the nearest alternative is Inverness, but that caters mainly for curling so it’s difficult to get ice time.
“Our skaters would be left instead with a four-hour round trip to Aberdeen, which is just not practical for anybody who also has to attend school. It would end their careers.
“All I can do is plead with the powers that be to get this sorted out as quickly as possible and end the uncertainty.”
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead met Roddy Burns, head of the council, this week. to discuss the matter.
Mr Lochhead said: “We cannot allow ourselves to be in the position where a community the size of Elgin is left without a swimming pool and leisure facilities.
“It does seem change is inevitable – and with its current financial position that is for good reason – but it is vital the doors remain open.”
The chairman of the current board, Andrew Wood, is away on holiday this week and unavailable for comment.
Moray Leisure Centre was built in 1993. An independent report in the autumn of 2015 stated that, although well looked after, the building needed £1million spent on it.
Councillors unanimously agreed last year to pay half the £500,000 needed to replace the equipment that freezes the ice rink, while the other half of the cost was match-funded by sportscotland.
However, the following council budget duly saw the removal of an additional £60,000 subsidy the leisure centre had used to pay for maintenance.
Funds are being sought to build a sports centre in the Linkwood area of Elgin.
However, there are no plans at present for this facility, which is being pushed by Springfield Properties boss Sandy Adams, to include a swimming pool or ice rink.