One arctic day last week, Brian Versteeg left his frozen logging truck at home and started swimming lengths at the Houston pool.
“It is kinda weird to be coming out of -30 C and jumping into the water,” he said, laughing.
But Versteeg rarely misses his twice-a-week swim. He logs a good 80 lengths and one hot tub dip per visit—enough to beat this year’s pool challenge of swimming twice the length of the 110 km Stuart River.
Houston’s leisure facility could use a few more diehards like Versteeg.
Admissions to the pool and fitness room have been slipping steadily, falling to 35,189 last year from 37,081 in 2010 and 38,877 in 2009.
Revenues fell in the same period, dropping to $156,642 last year from $171,041 in 2010 and $191,701 in 2009.
Reporting to council last week, Leisure Services Director Curtis McPhee said that what the pool needs now is more advertising in more communities.
Warmer temperatures might also help in the short term.
“The cold weather is hurting us,” McPhee said, adding that lots of the pool’s regular swimmers and gym users walk to the facility.
Bad weather in all seasons brings an extra hit to the Houston leisure centre because so many swimmers drive in from Smithers and Burns Lake, he said. Staff at the pool said out-of-town families especially like its “lazy river” and warmer swim lanes.
Houston’s leisure facility did see some numbers rebound last year, especially in fitness programs like Aquafit, drop-in soccer, floor hockey and basketball.
And the facility is rolling out some new programs to get Houston active and in shape for 2012, McPhee said.
On Feb. 8, the pool will start hosting a Parent Power Hour where moms and dads can leave their two to five-year-olds in a mini swim lesson while they hit the fitness room or swim lanes.
McPhee said the Tuesday twonie swims are popular, and the facility will soon add a Fitness Fridays program that lets people use the gym or pool for $2 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Other new programs include Houston’s own Biggest Loser contest, where the person who sheds the most weight from January to April wins a prize, and Blastball, a fun pre-T ball game with foam equipment and a single base that makes a loud honk when players land on it.
Right now Blastball is geared toward kids ages three to six, and some Houston schools are trying it out.
More than sixty per cent of the visitors to the Houston leisure facility buy a 10-punch pass, which lets people use the pool or fitness room at a reduced rate whenever they have time to drop in.