Sports centres go private


FIVE Mornington Peninsula Shire-owned sports and leisure centres will be managed from 29 October by a private company that manages more than 120 other centres across Australia.

Belgravia Leisure will manage and operate the Pelican Park Recreation Centre in Hastings, Mornington’s Civic Reserve Recreation Centre, the Somerville Health & Fitness Studio, Crib Point Pool and Western Port Gymnastics at the Hastings Hub.

Ratepayers will pay $5,720,290 to Belgravia Leisure over five years in management fees.

The Bayswater-based leisure centre and golf course management company will also run All Access outreach programs for older adults in Mornington, Rosebud, Hastings, Somers, Blairgowrie and Somerville.

The shire announced the “partnership” with Belgravia Leisure last Thursday (14 September) and said all council staff at the five centres will be offered employment by the private company “with recognition of prior service and maintenance of existing terms and conditions of employment”.

The deal to have Belgravia Leisure manage the centres was hailed as “a win-win-win” by the mayor Cr Bev Colomb.

“This is a win-win-win: a win for cost-effective service delivery on behalf of our community, a win for members and user groups and a win for staff,” Cr Colomb said in a statement.

“Council will retain ownership and maintenance of the buildings and remains committed to ensuring sport, leisure and recreation services are available to our community.

The mayor said it will be “business as usual” at the sports and lei-sure centres after Belgravia Leisure takes over.

Council CEO Carl Cowie said the shire has signed a five-year management deal with Belgravia Leisure.

There is a “first extension option at council’s discretion” after two years and a second extension option after year four of the five-year arrangement.

Mr Cowie said Belgravia Leisure can change the centres’ operating hours after the first 12 months of the five-year deal.

Existing staff will receive existing pay and conditions but this may change for future employees.

“New team members would be employed by Belgravia Leisure on their terms and conditions,” Mr Cowie told The News.

Belgravia Leisure CEO Nick Cox said the company will host breakfasts and information sessions for leisure centre group members and will work with staff during the transition period.

“Belgravia Leisure is very excited to be partnering with Mornington Peninsula Shire and we look forward to working with the local team in expanding upon the current programs and services,” Mr Cox said in a statement.

“We will work with existing members, user groups and community organisations to plan and deliver a range of new and exciting aquatic and fitness programs. In particular, our focus will be on increasing access for people of all ages and abilities.

“Belgravia Leisure will maintain existing memberships and bookings, with no changes to current programs, services or operational hours. We are confident that through additional programming significant benefits will flow through to the community.”

Belgravia Leisure was founded in 1990 by current chairman Geoff Lord, a former president of Hawthorn Football Club and Melbourne Victory, and employs more than 4500 people across leisure centres managed in partnership with state governments and councils.

In May this year The News revealed Peninsula Leisure Pty Ltd, a Frankston Council owned company, and Belgravia Leisure had spoken to the shire about managing peninsula sports and leisure centres.

Frankston councillors subsequently voted to restrict Peninsula Leisure’s operations to the two Frankston swimming centres amid concerns about “financial risks” to Frankston ratepayers through “empire building”.

The door was left open for Peninsula Leisure to present a business plan to operate other sports centres within the Frankston municipality.

Peninsula Leisure operates the Peninsula Aquatic Recreation Centre (PARC) in Frankston and the Pines Forest Aquatic Centre in Frankston North.

A 7-2 majority of shire councillors voted to award a five-year contract to Belgravia Leisure at this month’s council meeting on Tuesday 12 September.

The decision was discussed in private after the public council meeting for commercial-in-confidence reasons.

Crs Colomb, Rosie Clark, Bryan Payne, Hugh Fraser, Frank Martin, Simon Brooks and Antonella Celi voted in favour of the awarding of the contract.

Crs Kate Roper and David Gill voted against the deal.

The only sports centre to remain under council management after October will be the Somerville Recreation & Community Centre.

The stadium that houses basketball courts was severely fire damaged and closed to the public in May 2016.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 19 September 2017


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