A swimmer says he has been left with no choice but to stop using Sunderland’s Aquatic Centre pool because overcrowding has led to threats and abuse.
The Echo reported in June how some swimmers have been left disappointed after the size of pool at the Monkwearmouth fitness centre had been made smaller.
“Swimmers have become so angry at being jammed into lanes like sardines that arguments, and even violence, has broken out.”William Gillen
Those complaining argued that Everyone Active, which operates leisure facilities in the city on behalf of Sunderland City Council, had made the decision because of financial constraints, with the company arguing it was done after looking at usage levels.
Bosses today said they “do not tolerate any form of violence” towards members or staff.
Now, Ashbrooke man William Gillen says he will no longer use the Aquatic Centre because of problems since the pool size was made smaller.
The 38-year-old regularly used the site and credits swimming with improving the arthritis condition which he suffers from.
“Swimmers have become so angry at being jammed into lanes like sardines that arguments have broken out,” said Mr Gillen.
“The tension is getting so great now and I don’t go because I am frightened that I’ll be sworn at or threatened.
“I had someone hit me in the side as I swam past.
“Speed lanes are not enforced so that older, slower swimmers collide with faster swimmers.
“Faster swimmers find they cannot swim fast at all and risk abuse if they do.
“I have been threatened when I attempt to swim fast.”
Mr Gillen, who says he spoke to centre management about being threatened and other issues, including the size of the pool, and added that he cannot get to another pool although he enjoys swimming.
“Swimming helped me get mt fitness back up and improved my arthritis,” he said.
“But I can’t travel any further away to other places.
“At the end of the day, it’s not worth it anymore.”
Ian Bradgate, Everyone Active’s contract manager at the Sunderland Aquatic Centre, said: “We take the safety of our swimmers very seriously and will not tolerate any form of violence towards our members or colleagues.
“The current pool layout at the Sunderland Aquatic Centre has been adjusted in line with its current usage and was not a decision taken lightly. We are constantly monitoring ongoing demand for the pool and will alter its layout, where required.”