FALLING gym membership at the Abbey Stadium has been blamed for part of Redditch Borough Council blowing its budget.
About ten per cent of members at the council owned Springs gym ditched the venue following the opening of Pure Gym in the Kingfisher Shopping Centre.
Membership dropped from a capacity of 2,400 down to around 2,160. But the council claims they are now seeing a reversal of the trend and currently there are 2,280 people using the £6.5million building which re-opened in spring 2012.
The loss of members saw the sports services department running over budget in the first quarter of the financial year. Between April and June this year, they were expecting to spend £256,000 but a report presented to councillors shows the actual spend was £272,000.
The report said a new ‘sales and retention campaign’ had been launched to try and recruit new members and address the decline in numbers.
The news follows calls by borough councillors as part of a task group to review the centre’s future it would struggle to attract and retain members without major investment, due to the competition on offer from the private sector. The possibility of handing the running of the stadium over to a leisure trust, which would result in greater investment in the building including from the private sector and expansion of services on offer, is currently being explored.
A council spokeswoman said: “Abbey Stadium is bucking the trend on the budget-style gyms popping up nationwide through by implementing a successful sales drive and added value to all our customers which include good incentives for members that work out.
“Customers are now coming back and they are realising it is not all about price but quality of service and seeing results.”
But the council’s free swimming policy, introduced two years ago to give under 16s and over 60s the chance to use the pool for free, has proved popular with 40,000 total visits earlier this summer.
It equates to a total of 16,667 swims for the 3,398 under 16s who have purchased a free swimming card and 23,440 swims for 1,885 over 60s.
Council leader Bill Hartnett said: “This policy is clearly popular. It encourage a positive health lifestyle, keeping the participants both fit and active and it is a fun activity.”