Built as an outdoor pool with a paddling pool and learner pool in 1974, the Waterside Pool was enclosed with a unique opening roof in 1994 as the last gasp of the old Medina Borough Council before its budget was absorbed by the creation of the Unitary Authority.
Great plans for remodelling with new changing rooms, a cafe and a gym were explored in 2006 and Southampton-based architects FDG were commissioned to draw up plans circa 2008. As a first step, 3 dual fuel boilers were commissioned in 2009 but by 2010 the pool’s closure was announced.
This was the fall out from the 2008 recession and was at a time when local councils throughout the country were shedding non-essential services. Papers released at the time indicated that the pool was losing £200,000 per annum.
Following a meeting organised by Ian and Lesley Ball in what’s now Captains Table, a petition was launched and within 4 weeks obtained several thousand signatures – more than enough to force a full debate by councillors. An action group followed and the closure was delayed to give Waterside Community Trust to set up as a not-for-profit company and bid to take the facility over. A rival approach came from a developer who had plans to build a hotel with what Lesley dismissively called a ‘fluffy towel pool’
In the Winter of 2011, when the Trust submitted their bid, trustees were advised that a £100,000 start-up subsidy would be received when the Trust took over in April 2011. However, there were procedural delays so it was agreed that Isle of Wight Council would keep the pool open until the transfer was complete in December 2011. Then the bombshell… the Trust were told that the £100,000 had been used up in running the facility from April to December and therefore the only grant money given was £16,000.
Ryde Town Council were supportive throughout and provided £40,000 per year which was a lifeline in those early years. As the Trust became more successful this annual grant was cut first to £30,000 and latterly to £20,000. To this day the centre relies heavily on the support of Ryde Town Council, as well as grants and fundraising to keep the centre open and to continue to develop and improve its facilities.
Waterside Pool has grown in strength year on year, with fantastic community support. It is open 7 days a week, 50 weeks of the year and over the past 10 years has provided jobs to over 200 people, training up over 300 lifeguards, teaching in excess of 20,000 local children to swim as well as providing a community hub for locals.
The centre has also developed Ryde Beach Lifeguards, which is a nationally recognised arm of the charity focusing on the training of lifeguards, as well as providing a Beach Lifeguard Service for Ryde and Sandown beaches.
The Waterside Pool costs approximately £1,000 per day to run and wouldn’t be open without support from the community.
A 10-year celebration will be taking place in Summer 2022 when COVID restrictions have eased – although there are no restrictions on gatherings at the moment.
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