Exclusive: Oasis Beach Pool opening date set as new management promises ‘customers will come first’

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Children fun swimming pool play water leisure Image: Adobe Stock/davit85
Image: Adobe Stock/davit85

The new management team looking after Bedford Borough Council’s leisure services have said that they want customers to know they will be listened to and that their needs will come first as they get the Oasis Beach Pool ready to reopen.

During an exclusive tour of the ‘beach pool’, the Bedford Independent spoke with GLL about the work already carried out, what else they have planned, and when they’ll reopen what they hope will be a facility Bedford can be proud of.

GLL is the largest UK-based charitable social enterprise delivering leisure, health and community services across the country and was recently awarded the contract to look after leisure facilities in the Borough.

Read: A new dawn for Bedford Borough leisure centres

Walking around inside the iconic pyramid pool, it appears the main priority for GLL is listening.

“It’s about us making sure that every customer that comes through the doors gets excellent service and goes away happy,” said Gillan Kelly, partnerships manager at GLL.

“Oasis Beech Pool is important to the local community in Bedford, but it’s also a destination facility. Lots of people travel into Bedford to use Oasis.

“So, it’s well-loved and we’ve got the chance, I think, to reopen it in the right way.”

Listening

And it seems they may well be doing just that. Bedford Independent readers will know all too well the issues of the past, and GLL has been making sure they understand what Bedfordians want from the leisure services they pay for.

And it’s listening to that past feedback that seems to have GLL on the front foot.

They’ve reimagined the customer experience for Oasis, right from the point a booking is made with a new advanced booking system, so they can book timed entry in advance, with a ‘concierge’ service at the front desk to help them when they arrive.

This, says GLL, will prevent a bottleneck with too many people arriving at a time, but walk-ins will still be welcome and helped by staff as soon as they walk through the door and into the modern, open-plan entrance.

The changing rooms are also getting a refresh, with some much-needed TLC to repair or replace broken locks, doors and lockers – as well as getting rid of those changing cubicles that were constantly being flooded by the nearby showers.

Changes that might seem small but should have a bigger impact.

(l-r) GLL's Gillan Kelly, Cllr Sarah Gallagher and Oasis Beach Pool's new general manager Ricky Whiting. Image: Bedford Independent.
(l-r) GLL’s Gillan Kelly, Cllr Sarah Gallagher and Oasis Beach Pool’s new general manager Ricky Whiting. Image: Bedford Independent.

“We’ll use trickle flow [for arrivals], so we’ll have some sessions available at 10-minute intervals, and that will take the pressure off the changing rooms, and give customers a much better experience when they’re arriving,” added Gillan.

“So, there won’t be long queues to get into the facility and there won’t be fighting for space in the changing cubicles on the other side.”

But it’s not just the opening that Gillan says is on GLL’s mind. He agrees, that once they open, they have to maintain customer satisfaction

“We think customers just want everything to work as it as it should,” he says. “You know, they want clean facilities that work well and basic things like having toilet rolls in toilet roll holders and soap dispensers filled.

“Lockers that work, cubicles that work, clean facilities and a pool that, as fantastic as this, works in terms of all of the features it has to offer. Like the flumes, the waves and other features, such as an excellent catering offer as well.”

“We’re excited to be working with Elevenses, who will be our catering provider going forward and they’ll be ready to to deliver a service once we reopen the door.

“And that would be supported by the party packages”.

Reopening party central

Oasis has the opportunity to be party central now too, with the gym being replaced with a party area, the glass viewing room becoming a party area, and an area near the cafe becoming a party area too.

“We’ve redeveloped those spaces into party rooms so they’ll be available for people to book in advance and we’ll offer packages that include swimming and catering too.

“Our parties will be available to book online or in person with a member of the staff, by developing these additional spaces, we’ll be able to cater for more parties than ever before.

“The spaces are also multi-use as well, so when we don’t have the demand for parties, we’ll be able to run other types of dry sessions in those areas.”

And it’s parties that will underpin the fun atmosphere that GLL hopes Oasis will become known for.

The centre will reopen on 20 May 2024, with eager customers able to book from today, with a special offer for residents, allowing children to swim for just £1.

Make a booking here: bookings.better.org.uk/location/oasis-beach-pool.

This week will lead into half-term with an official community event on the 28 May, which Bedfordians are also invited to book for. Details of how to book for that will be available soon.

From Hawaii to Cardington

At the special Hawaiian-themed party, residents and people involved in the centre can officially celebrate the reopening of the Oasis Beach Pool with fun activities, music, food, and, most importantly fun on the flumes and swimming in the waves.

It’s this party, that Cllr Sarah Gallagher (Conservative), Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture, says marks the point where we leave the past behind us and look to the future.

“For me, first impressions count and GLL have worked hard on making sure people do come here to use these facilities and want to come back again.

“My children used to come here for parties and now I want my grandchildren to as well. We need to use this facility rather than see this building closed down.

“In fact we want it to be better than what it used to be as it is so important for Bedford Borough residents.”


Opinion

Time and again, as we spoke with GLL staff, Cllr Gallagher and council officers, the subject of community kept coming up – the community around the pool and the wider community of Bedford.

It’s clear that they don’t just see Oasis as a pool that people will use only now and again, but that it should be a pool that families enjoy regularly and frequently, and that generations of families will build memories there.

As Cllr Gallagher points out, she took her children there and now her children will take theirs there too. Many people from inside and outside Bedford Borough will no doubt want to do the same.

And that’s what a local swimming pool should be – a place for building memories that last for a lifetime and beyond.

It seems to me, at least, that GLL is listening to us Bedfordians, their customers, and that they fully intend to continue doing so.

They seem to understand that Oasis belongs to the people of Bedford and the trust we’ve placed in them to look after what should be a jewel in our crown must not be taken for granted.

It’s why they’re making sure to highlight the basic things you’d expect, like clean toilets and cubicles that lock, but it’s also why they’re looking to evolve booking systems, catering and add extra party rooms.

It’s also why they’re looking at getting local artists in to create unique and meaningful murals, which will adorn the walls and create a pride of place that further connects the pool to Bedford.

There will also be more work to do. While the pool will reopen refreshed and reinvigorated, their ‘phase 2’ plans are to get the outside looking even better and get the lazy river working too, no doubt something we all can’t wait to enjoy again.

As GLL’s Gillan confirms, the outside is as much of a priority and inside too, and he says, “we’re actively talking to the Council to establish all the options.”

“But, for now”, he says, “It’s about maintenance, making sure that it’s clean and presentable, and then obviously the first impressions will be as you walk into the building”

And that I can understand, we all want Oasis to look great inside and out, but let’s get it open first, with everything inside looking the way a modern, functional, family pool should so everyone can get back to enjoying what’s on offer as soon as possible.

The exterior can then be looked at, after all, it’s going to be a big job, but GLL and Bedford Borough Council do tell me they will be working on it soon. They’ve already replaced the glass fronting so it stands to reason

They’re aware we expect a lot, rightly so, but they are clearly up for the challenge and if they can deliver what they say they will, then Oasis just might be exactly what it was always meant to be – something we can all be proud of.


 


 


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