Leisure managers axed


By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Greater Dandenong Council has dumped the managers of its basketball stadiums and pools.

The council has decided not to renew the contracts of YMCA and Dandenong Basketball Association from July 2022, nor to put the contracts out to public tender.

Instead, the council will ‘go it alone’ with a new wholly-owned subsidiary company.

“The model allows a balance to be struck between a commercial approach to management and meeting our community’s needs,” Greater Dandenong community services director Martin Fidler said.

“This is an exciting approach that will encourage increased participation and provide a sustainable operating model.”

YMCA has run Dandenong Oasis, Noble Park Aquatic Centre and Springers Leisure Centre since 2014.

Dandenong Basketball Association runs Dandenong Stadium, which caters for up to 17,000 visitors a week at its basketball, volleyball and beach volleyball courts.

Both managers – like others in the recreation industry – were fiercely rocked by Covid-19 lockdowns last year.

The loss of the management contract appears a potentially fatal blow to the DBA.

In a recent statement to members at its AGM, the financially-stricken DBA tied its financial health to continuing to run the stadium.

Without the contract, the DBA was “uncertain … whether the Association will be able to continue as a going concern”, it stated.

JobKeeper payments and the recovery of basketball activities from Covid-19 restrictions were also keys to its financial viability.

The DBA announced a $170,000 surplus for 2019-’20, recovering from a $409.000 deficit the year before.

But there has been some instability at the top. Two CEOs Graeme Allen and Stephen Walter have departed in the past two years.

Since Mr Walter’s resignation in August, a permanent replacement has yet to be appointed.

During Covid lockdowns, the DBA’s weekly income of $90,000 from more than 800 domestic, state and national teams dried to zero.

Many staff were stood down, with some retained on the $1500-fortnightly JobKeeper scheme.

The DBA was also aided by about $50,000 in state grants and payroll tax relief, as well as Greater Dandenong waiving the DBA’s stadium rent.

The YMCA reported standing down or de-rostering more than 5000 – or 90 per cent – of its staff in facilities across multiple council areas.

By November, about half of its workforce had returned, it reported. Many of its staff was supported by JobKeeper.

Mr Fidler didn’t comment on whether the DBA’s recent struggles prompted the changes.

The council would maintain “control” over its asset management to “protect its significant investment in its major recreational facilities”, he said.

He didn’t comment on the relative costs of the current and new management models.

DBA and YMCA were contacted for comment.