Do you fancy a dip in the River Blackwater?

As early as 1901 some had suggested that a pool could be built in the town – the site was at the rear of the Yorktown Sewage Farm – but nothing came of it.  Instead you were allowed to swim in the river itself between strict hours.  There were proper rules and permits, and even someone on hand, in case of problems.

I don’t know how long this facility lasted, but by 1934 local businessmen were looking at the idea of opening a ‘lido’ nearer the town.  One of the men involved was the jeweller Percy Todd whose shop in the High Street had a working model of a fairground, which delighted all the children.

The Blue Pool opened in May 1934 and was immensely popular.  It was taken over by the Borough Council in 1973, but, by this time, the structure was in need of some serious attention.  A surveyor was called in to work out the possible cost and a scheme to open a new facility in Krooner Park was looked at, as the number of swimmers was going down, and the costs were going up.  One councillor calculated that entrance fee to the Blue Pool would have to go up from 35p to £3 to pay for repairs and to keep the pool open. The pool closed in 1976 and the site is now a block of flats.

The council continued to work on the idea of opening an indoor pool and eventually settled on a site on the edge of the London Road Recreation Ground where they opened The Arena Leisure Centre in 1984.  The decision to build the same design as had been used successfully in Farnham was taken as early as 1981 but the first builders chosen went bankrupt and new ones had to be found.  Arena was the first council-owned leisure centre in the country to be run by a private company and Crossland Leisure Enterprises went on to be another local success story, changing their name to DC Leisure and recently, Place for People Leisure. (http://www.placesforpeopleleisure.org/about-places-for-people-leisure)

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