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Visitor numbers, income and expenditure at Swansea’s main leisure centres and attractions

SWIMMING lessons for beginners have clawed back some of the lost Covid period at leisure centres in Swansea, a report said.

A learning to swim programme grew by 63% in 2021-22 compared to pre-pandemic levels at pools run by an operator called Freedom Leisure on behalf of the council.

But council leader Rob Stewart warned at a cabinet meeting that “we are by far from out of the woods”.

Freedom Leisure runs the city centre LC, and Penlan, Penyrheol, Morriston and Cefn Hengoed Leisure Centres – plus the Elba sports complex in Gowerton.

The Wales National Pool Swansea (pic by Richard Youle)

Income and usage plummeted at leisure centres and visitor attractions during Covid but the cabinet report presented some encouraging findings for 2021-22, which had fewer periods of restriction than the previous year. It looked at figures for Freedom Leisure and other venues including Wales National Pool Swansea, Sketty, although they are somewhat dated as we are now in 2023-24.

Cllr Rob Stewart warned that cost-of-living pressures would make themselves felt, particular rising energy bills, in future leisure centre reports.

The Swansea Labour leader said the authority was having to deploy its own resources to support attractions’s energy costs – it also provides them with an annual management fee or subsidy – to ensure they stay open “so that the people of Swansea can enjoy them”.

Here are some of the key findings:

– The Wales National Pool’s income in 2021-22 was £1,032,825 compared to £451,967 the previous year. Although a significant rise, it was 22% less than pre-pandemic levels. Expenditure was £1,989,982 compared to £1,419,948 in 2020-21. Visitor numbers were 16% less than pre-pandemic levels.

The pool is a not-for-profit entity governed by a board of directors including representatives of the council and Swansea University which, along with visitor revenue, fund it.

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– Freedom Leisure income was £6,227,961 in 2021-22 compared to £2,847,575 the previous year. Encouragingly, income surpassed the pre-pandemic year by nearly £120,000. But expenditure was £8,481,463 – much higher than 2020-21 and around £400,000 more than the previous year. There were 1,426,258 visits to its leisure centres but no pre-pandemic comparison was given.

Plantasia, Swansea (pic by Richard Youle)

The report said some of its leisure centres were doing very well but that gym membership at the LC, whose car park has been taken up by the Swansea Arena, was 61% down.

– Plantasia income in the 2021 calendar year was £434,441 compared to £300,207 in 2020. Expenditure was £600,555 compared to £493,892 in 2020. Visitor numbers were 57,783 compared to 49,183.

The tropical zoo in Parc Tawe is run by a group called Parkwood Leisure Ltd on behalf of the council. The report said 2021 highlights included the birth of two critically dangered Egyptian tortoises and the launch of a Plantasia gin range distilled by The Gower Gin Company.

– The National Waterfront Museum’s income in 2021-22 was £1,912,405 compared to £1,732,970 the year before. Expenditure was £1,818,052 compared to 2020-21. Visitor numbers remain lower than pre-pandemic levels, but no figures were given.

The museum, at Swansea Marina, is a not-for-profit entity and public sector partnership between the Welsh Government’s Museum Wales and Swansea Council. Exhibitions in 2021-22 includes ones on the Windrush generation in Wales and the natural history of worms.