baltimore-community-leisure-centre-icon-200pxWith the support and good graces of Skibbereen Credit Union, as well as the kind donations made by the people of West Cork, a small committee is poised to purchase a leisure centre in Baltimore.

Jim O’Donnell, who is but one of committee of eight, told The Southern Star: ‘This is no small achievement considering that an investment of €110,000 will safeguard the future availability of a leisure centre that we believe will be of direct benefit to the people of Baltimore, Skibbereen, and the greater West Cork area.’

When the Baltimore Harbour Hotel closed five years ago, there were immediate concerns that the leisure centre would close as well, but the community stepped in and a committee successfully ran it in the intervening period.

Although it was always their intention to purchase the facility – which includes a 17m swimming pool, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi, and a fully equipped gymnasium – they were frustrated by the liquidator’s need to sell the hotel and leisure centre as a single entity.

‘There have been several false starts,’ said Jim, who finds himself in the role of PRO for the very active local committee, ‘but we are now happy to report that the deal is signed and sealed and will be delivered within the next few days.’

The sum of €35,000 was raised in rather exceptional circumstances: the money was, in fact, donated by three members of the management committee – an act of generosity that inspired the local credit union to come on board and provide the balance of €75,000 as a community loan.

‘Without the use of this facility the nearest pool would be 50 miles away,’ said Jim, who believes that the leisure centre, particularly the pool, will become a major resource for the numerous wild swimming enthusiasts living in the area.

‘I think wild swimming will be a big, big draw into West Cork in the years to come, especially now that we have its champion, Steve Redmond, in our midst.’

Steve, as most people already know, was the first person to swim the seven major straits – known the Oceans 7 Challenge – and he continues to be a tremendous advocate for wild swimming.

As a valued member of the new Baltimore Community Leisure Centre’s management committee, Steve said: ‘We have a golden opportunity here in West Cork to be “the” centre for this evolving sport. We have the ocean, we have Lough Hyne and now we have the pool in Baltimore – the three ingredients that I believe are needed to promote wild swimming.’

The pool has been open continuously for the last five years and will remain open now that the sale has been secured.

‘Of course, the sale would not have been possible without the foresight, vision and good sense of the manager of the local credit union, Donal O’Driscoll, and his colleagues,’ said Jim.

‘We are extremely grateful that this local institution saw fit to assist us and we look forward to working with them, especially as we continue to refurbish and modernise this facility in the months and years to come.’

As a community pool and gym, the facility is different from other leisure centres: it is, for example, a not-for-profit organisation that is run by a voluntary committee.

It will provide affordable training sessions for different groups; it will organise an annual children’s triathlon; it will provide rural transport for certain special needs groups; and it will provide late evening social sessions for adults every Monday and Thursday.

At certain times of the day and evening, specially scheduled gym sessions will be provided for beginners only because the committee want new members to develop at their own pace without feeling intimidated by more experienced gym users. And they will also be running a weight loss programme.

Anyone who would to support the Baltimore Leisure Centre committee can do so by calling 028 20622. In the weeks and months to come, Jim said: ‘We will also be organising a serious of fundraising events to pay for the refurbishment of the centre, but now is the time for celebration and with this in mind we are organising an open day on Friday, February 14th so that people can feel to call in and have a good look around.’


This article was originally published in the Southern Star on February 7th, 2014.

Author: Jackie Keogh Link: Click Here