Leisure centre slump may be down to slowing economy


QUARTERLY user numbers for Shetland Recreational Trust’s leisure centres across the isles are down by over seven per cent year on year, it was revealed this week.

There were 158,668 admissions at the eight centres between April and June this year, down from 171,430 in 2007. As a result, revenue at the Clickimin Leisure Complex was down by £4,500 to £150,168 in the first quarter of the financial year.

The figures come after the introduction of an above-inflation increase in prices and the abolition of lower off-peak charges, which came into effect on 1st April, but SRT general manager James Johnston said feedback from managers at the centres suggested there had been very little in the way of complaint from members of the public over the increase in rates.

Mr Johnston told board members at a meeting of the SRT in the Bowlers’ Bar at Clickimin on Tuesday that there was no scientific explanation for the drop in numbers, with the centres in Scalloway and Whalsay bucking the trend by showing an increase in visitor numbers.

He said the fine weather Shetland has experienced this summer was likely to be a factor, though the price rises and a worsening economic climate could also have played a part. If it was weather-related, he joked, it was a fall which could be welcomed but “we’ve got to hope for a harsh winter!”

The trust has a target for 2008/9 of increasing its total number of subscriptions by five per cent, but in the first three months of the year there has been a 10 per cent decrease. Mr Johnston said this was not of huge concern as it is an annual target and most subscriptions tend to be purchased in the autumn.

He said the SRT was still examining ways of tackling the doubling of electricity costs at Clickimin, as reported in The Shetland Times in April, which saw the centre’s annual bill rise from £200,000 last year to £400,000.

That has left the trust with a funding shortfall of £170,000 and the plan is to report back to Shetland Charitable Trust, the SRT’s primary funder, in September to say whether or not they will be seeking a supplementary grant to cover the extra cost. “We have managed to save a little bit on our consumption but it’s still obviously an area of concern,” Mr Johnston said.

The Clickimin’s running costs are £2.1m a year, with £1.3m of that met from the charitable trust’s £2.9m grant to the SRT, while revenue from customers at the complex stood at £615,000 in 2007/8. Acting general manager Jeff Goddard said earlier this year that the charitable trust was sympathetic towards the SRT’s predicament and that there may be a need to recommend that trustees approve an increase in its budget for 2008/9.

The SRT’s annual report was published this week, showing that revenue from the eight centres totalled £1.12m in 2007/8.

The poorest performer year-on-year in its portfolio was the centre in Scalloway: its £83,069 revenue was down by over £3,000 on 2006/7, having lost around £4,000 in takings at the games hall.

The best performers were the leisure centres in Brae and Whalsay, both showing revenue increases of around 11 per cent with takes of £90,967 and £87,467 respectively. Yell Leisure Centre took in £62,096 last year, while the swimming pool at Sandwick had revenue of £71,457 and the West Mainland Leisure Centre was up slightly at £63,443.

The SRT’s balance sheet at the start of this financial year showed the total value of all its properties stood at just under £28m, having depreciated in value from a high of £34m, and is expected to continue depreciating at a rate of around £600,000 a year.

  • Meanwhile, the trust has moved to dispel the suggestion that Clickimin would be an adequate substitute for a dedicated games hall if the proposed new Anderson High School was moved to a site adjacent to Staney Hill.

    Some councillors, who favour moving the school to a site adjacent to Staney Hill instead of the proposed Knab site, have used the argument that it could lead to savings in the overall cost of the project.

    But Mr Johnston said the SRT has provided figures to SIC executive director Hazel Sutherland showing that the games hall at Clickimin is being used “more than it is imagined” on weekdays and that the trust has a policy of leaving parts of the hall available for casual use, meaning it would not be able to block-book the building for use by school pupils.

    While there is plenty of spare capacity at the swimming pool, he said it “wouldn’t be as simple” as the AHS being able to use Clickimin to satisfy the curriculum needs of the school’s PE department.

    He said: “There is an established pattern of use [in the hall] at Clickimin in the daytime. We wouldn’t be able to absorb all the school’s usage without having a huge impact on the public use of the building. We’ve provided what we think we could offer the school. It might suit [their needs] but I would very much doubt it.”


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