Barooga Sporties health and fitness centre to reopen

By Spencer Fowler Steen

In a massive win for the community, Barooga Sporties health and fitness is set to reopen following funding commitments from both Berrigan and Moira Shire councils.

Moira Shire Council committed to matching Berrigan Shire's $50 000 funding for the next two years at its meeting last week, meaning the indoor pool, gym and training facilities will continue to operate.

Sporties president Gary Hunt said it was "fantastic news.”

“The level of community activation over the last few weeks did not surprise us at all,” he said.

“We would actually have been really surprised and disappointed had that not occurred.”

Following the closure of the facility due to COVID-19, Sporties requested an annual operating grant of $100 000 for 2020 and 2021, with Berrigan and Moira shire councils to contribute half each.

However, Berrigan Shire's funding was conditional on an identical commitment from Moira Shire, a commitment which has now ended months of uncertainty over the future of the beloved facility.

Moira Shire voted in favor of the motion 8-2, with Cr Kevin Bourke and Cr Marie Martin voting against saving the facility.

Cr Gary Cleveland said the facilities would bring a huge benefit to the Cobram-Barooga community, and losing it for $50 000 would be a shame.

“This is another opportunity for the Barooga Sporties to change what they're doing, have a look at it, know that it has to be a viable option in to the future.

“We've given them a little bit of support, but then they'll have to take the whole onus on themselves to make sure the facility is viable and sustainable into the future, and that's what we're allowing them to do with our support.

The grant will be used to help residents re-establish an active lifestyle post-pandemic by offsetting the best part of the swimming pool operational costs, understood to be about $170 000 annually.

Under this model, not-for-profit group Barooga Sporties will still contribute more than $400 000 over the two-year period via its members.

While acknowledging that Sporties staff had been through "a really difficult rollercoaster" over the last three months, Mr Hunt reiterated that it was run efficiently from a financial perspective.

“We are not naïve to the terrific challenge that lays ahead,” he said.

“From here our immediate goal is to focus on reopening as early as practicable and in a way that meets all COVID-19 related obligations and requirements.

“We will provide further updates as we understand what that looks like and the associated time frames.”

Save the Barooga Pool and Fitness Centre campaigner Julie Cornwell, who has run a Facebook page with over 1300 members, said now was time for supporters to chip in.

“It may cost me some extra dollars a week, but the health and well-being benefits, not to mention the social interaction, the pool and fitness centre brings me are worth so much more,” she said.

“I don’t want to swim in the pool for just the next two years – I want to swim in it forever.”