There was an elderly masseuse at the Turkish baths, but after she …

From the CapeTowner, by Monique Duval, 3rd February 2011

The Long Street Turkish baths came under the spotlight at the Good Hope Sub-council meeting, after a City of Cape Town report showed that they were under-used. The Department of Community Services said in the report that the facility required revitalisation. There was an elderly masseuse at the Turkish baths, but after she left visitor numbers dropped, the report said. Councillor Belinda Walker made several suggestions to improve the facility. She recommended that the City considered “outsourcing” and finding a commercial entity interested in managing it and that they should consider extending the operating times to accommodate the surrounding community.

And while the Turkish baths are underused, the Long Street Swimming Pool in the same building seemed to attract more visitors. Statistics for the swimming pool showed that 8 400 people visited it in January last year generating a revenue of more than R35 000. In March it attracted 6 842 visitors and 5 378 visitors in April. During the period from June to August, more than 20 000 people used the swimming pool, including people who sign up to use the facility every month. Long Street residents and the surrounding area have raised concerns about the appearance of the swimming pool and the Turkish baths and have said they should be improved.

Resident Russell Wightman, said he agreed with extending the operating hours of the facility.“It should be improved and it needs to be open longer. The City can spend a little on upgrading it as well, the lockers in the changing rooms are a mess. “I paid a year in advance intending to do some training there but was often put off by people booking lanes and closures due to events that do not include everyone, especially those who paid upfront,” he said. Mr Wightman said that while he visited the swimming pool, he did not like the Turkish baths. “It doesn’t seem very clean. We need someone who will put some love into it,” he said. Peter Lewis said he enjoyed using the swimming pool and said if it was open later more residents would use it. “I am convinced that more residents, workers, and students would use the baths if this were the case. I use it from time to time and love it.

Resident Sabine Palfi, who has lived in the city for 10 years said she has used the swimming pool once as swimming doesn’t “appeal to her”. However, she said the exterior of the building needed to be revamped. “The entrance could be more inviting. From the outside it looks grubby.It may also help if people knew more about it,” she said. Resident Byron Qually said while he didn’t use it often, he agreed its appearance could be improved. “I enjoy passing through the foyer, which seems to retain most of the heritage details and embellishments. Although the pool itself is refreshing, it is sad that the original changing-booths and other architectural details have been removed. It would be great if they could be reconstructed, as they also have a charm which could really differentiate the pool from more contemporary gyms, almost like the wooden huts have come to symbolise Muizenberg and St James. The tar pavement outside the baths really should be upgraded to the red brick which is being placed throughout the city,” he said.

Hilda Bornman, who owns a flat directly opposite the back door of the Long Street Baths said the noise was unbearable. She said most residents where she lived used the swimming pool in the complex. “Every day we deal with the arrival at of workers at 6am which include noisy gate, car engines revving, loud voices, doors slamming, music blaring from the cars. Very loud cheering, whistling, sometimes even drums, when there is a gala at the pool, until very late in the evening. “Noisy children during weekends playing outside the pool area. “The accoustics in that area are not good at all. All the tenants and owners who live in the flats near the pool constantly complain about the noise we have to put up with. We have not officially complained because we do know that the pool has to pay for itself,” she said.

Gert Bam, City director for Sports, Recreation and Amenities said the exterior of the building was painted 20 years ago. When asked whether the building had been refurbished in the past five years, Mr Bam said: “Only emergency and minor repairs and maintenance took place during the last five years. For example, repairs to the seating and the filtration plants and the installation of safety and security gates. The interior was painted three years ago. Any major repairs will require that the pool is closed for at least 12 months”. He said because the swimming pool and the Turkish baths were in a heritage building no major refurbishments can take place without prior approval from Heritage Western Cape. “Only swimming galas, synchronised swimming, water polo and underwater hockey and squad training sessions are allowed at this swimming pool. These events take place mostly during winter every week. “The public are not allowed access to the pool when competitions take place. “The public are notified – a notice is placed on the board at least seven days before the event takes place,” Mr Bam said.

Copyright Cape Community Newspapers, part of Independent News and Media.

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