Many municipalities looking to replace old pools and stem losses

Illustrative photo: Jiří Němec

The Czech Republic boasts a relatively high number of swimming pools per capita. However, most are loss-making and many municipalities are looking to replace aging pools with more attractive water parks, the business daily E15 reported.

Illustrative photo: Jiří Němec
According to a database created in 2014 by the State Health Institute there were 957 public swimming pools at that time in the Czech Republic.

That works out at 9.1 pools for every 100,000 inhabitants of the country, E15 said.

For comparison, neighbouring Germany has six pools for every 100,000 inhabitants.

However, while in Germany dozens of pools are shut down every year for economic reasons, in the Czech Republic such closures are rarely countenanced, said E15.

This is despite the fact that the vast majority – around 90 percent of them, in fact – are loss-making, according to a study commissioned by the town council in Milovice in Central Bohemia prior to the approval of a new pool project there.

Classic pools that don’t offer other services are virtually always in the red, the report found, with local councils pouring millions of crowns annually into keeping them going.

Nevertheless, more than 10 new swimming pools are due to open in the Czech Republic in the next three years, E15 reported.

A number of Czech cities and towns are opting for new constructions to replace old school pools from the 1970s and 1980s with water park facilities offering a broader range of amenities.

Radek Steinhaizl, a former municipal pool operator who now runs the sector consultancy firm Relaxsolution, told E15 that many existing pools feature out-of-date technology, are poorly heated and have high running costs – one reason many councils opt for fresh builds.

Pavel Košnar of the Association of Pools and Saunas told E15 that swimming itself was not the main draw for visitors. In order to bring in families, such facilities need to offer other attractions.

Municipalities are aware of this and are doing their best to adapt to meet public demand, according to Mr. Košnar, who recommends that operators increase admission fees.

There was a boom in swimming pool construction in the previous decade, largely fueled by EU funds. Today, however, many towns and cities are having to finance such projects from their own budgets or to take out loans.

One example of this trend is the construction of a new pool complex in Opava, which is set to cost CZK 350 million. It is being funded by a combination of the city’s own resources and an investment loan, E15 said.