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VISITOR numbers at leisure centres and the Plantasia attraction in Swansea have risen since they were outsourced to not-for-profit operators, figures have shown.

The council awarded Freedom Leisure a contract in 2018 to manage the LC and six other leisure and sports centres. Another operator, Parkwood Leisure, was given the Plantasia contract.

Cabinet members have been given a financial and visitor number breakdown of these attractions, which cover the first full year of the outsourced contracts.

However, because they generally cover the period between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020, they don’t reflect the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

These are the key figures for 2019-20:

The LC: income £3.1 million, expenditure £3.58 million, visitor numbers (including repeat visits) 630,273

Penlan Leisure Centre: income £1.08 million, expenditure £1.54 million, visitor numbers 359,064

Penyrheol Leisure Centre: income £1.01 million, expenditure £1.28 million, visitor numbers 494,403

Morriston Leisure Centre: income £498,951, expenditure £929,483, visitor numbers 312,391

Bishopston Sports Centre: income £271,944; expenditure £380,847; visitor numbers 109,056

Cefn Hengoed Leisure Centre: income £60,903, expenditure £178,564, visitor numbers 53,532

Elba Sports Complex: income £68,038; expenditure £148,719; visitor numbers 36,294.

Introducing the report at a meeting on April 15, council leader Rob Stewart said the combined visitor numbers were just shy of two million. Gym membership stood at a new high of 9,012, an increase of 14% on the previous year.

“I think that is an indication of the success of the way in which the Freedom Leisure arrangements are working,” he said.

The arrangements involve the council paying Freedom Leisure an annual management fee – £1.9 million in 2019-20 – and Freedom Leisure keeping the income at the door and using it to cover expenditure.

Another factor to consider is a £5.1 million investment by the council to upgrade the leisure centres and install new gym equipmet, particularly for Penyrheol and Morriston.

The cabinet report said “unanticipated dilapidations” have increased costs, meaning that a sum to improve the LC water park and catering have been temporarily reallocated to areas of greater need.

The council also spent £1.1 million upgrading Plantasia, Parc Tawe, which reopened to the public in April 2019.

Visitor numbers in the nine months from April to December soared by 73% to 77,509 compared to the whole previous year, although operations in that previous year were disrupted for various reasons.

The new-look Plantasia has more animals, interactive displays, visitor events, and a more modern cafe.

Income between April and December 2019 was £445,977 and expenditure £553,088, with Parkwood Leisure receiving a council management fee of £181,468.

Cabinet members were also given facts and figures about Wales National Pool Swansea, which it jointly runs and subsidises.

Visitor numbers at the pool decreased by 42% to 138,577, but this is because the reporting cycle is from August to July, meaning four full months of lockdown and restrictions had taken place. The council’s subsidy was £412,474.

Meanwhile, visitor numbers at the National Waterfront Museum dropped by 7% to 265,601 between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020. The council’s subsidy was £475,776.

Reflecting on the report, Cllr Jennifer Raynor, who has the education portfolio, said many more children had taken advantage of a learn to swim programme.

She expressed her thanks to the leisure attractions.

“As we entered the lockdown period, Plantasia and the National Waterfront Museum did an excellent job in providing additional online learning materials to support families and children and who were unable to go to school,” she said.

Image Copyright Brian Whittle

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