WACA pool doubts

The pools in the WACA’s concept images are now looking like a long shot.

THE chance of a pool at the WACA is drying up with the long-awaited business plan warning Perth councillors of hefty costs ahead. 

Perth council CEO Michelle Reynolds recommends councillors don’t enter the costly four-way deal with WACA and the state and federal governments.

The independent business plan estimated the pool would run at a deficit starting at $1.3million a year, only getting worse across the life of the 40 year deal. That’s on top of the $31million initial outlay to build it. 

The plan also raised concerns about the draft design of the two outdoor pools, saying the most successful pools were indoors, integrated with other facilities like saunas, spas cafes and retail, and it noted the adjoining gyms are where the money is made. 

The gym at this site would be operated by WACA, who’d also collect the gym membership fees.

The pool was part of a “City Deal”, an infrastructure funding agreement between all three levels of government. 

The state and federal governments have urged the council to jump in and approve the pool saying it’s what an inner city with a growing population needs.

Rate holiday

But the new council – elected last October after a state government inquiry found the former council’s expenditure was getting out of hand – have taken to heart the inquiry’s warnings about prudent financial management and have demurred until the business plan was finished. 

The council is due to vote on the plan at its July 6 meeting. 

They’ll also consider another cost-saving measure there: Gradually removing the WACA’s longstanding rates exemption that’s worth about $180,000 a year.

From 2004 to 2013 the vast majority of the WACA’s rates bill was forgiven on the basis that the land was used “exclusively for charitable purposes”.

Perth council challenged that charitable status in 2013, so the WACA went to the state government and obtained a special ministerial decree saying they were rates exempt, a fiat that had to be renewed yearly.

Once Labor won state government in 2017 the ministerial rates exemptions ended, but the council kept on the kid gloves and still mostly waived the WACA’s bill given cricket was only played there a few days a year.

Now staff are recommending councillors phase out the generous rates arrangement.

Under the plan the WACA will get a concession of $183,000 off their $198,000 upcoming rates bill, and the waiver will be chopped down until they pay full rates by 2024/25 when the redevelopment turns the grounds into more of a commercial venture. 

by DAVID BELL

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