Protesters, including a 93-year-old D-Day veteran, are getting all steamed up about plans to axe a sauna as part of a facelift for Dronfield Sports Centre.
North-East Derbyshire District Council is to inject £385,000 into an upgrade of the centre. But the changes include removing the sauna and steam-room suite to focus on more popular and cost-effective health and fitness-related activities. And this has enraged users of the suite, who have even set up a protest group called Save Our Sauna (SOS).
“The council has given just one month’s notice and has shown very little desire to consider other possibilities,” said SOS spokesman Danny Lester.
“For many people, including the D-Day veteran, Bill Rogers, who served in the Navy, the sauna is a vital part of their lives. It is one of the only places where you can get a single-sex sauna and is also used by a group of Somali women.
“Bill has been quite badly affected emotionally by the proposals and people around him fear it will send him into decline. Saunas are bang on target in terms of general health and lifestyle.”
As part of their campaign, SOS members have already held a public meeting and plan to stage a demonstration outside the centre on Saturday morning, wearing only dressing-gowns. “The centre have also arranged a question-and-answer meeting for next Wednesday (September 7), but the time is set at between 4 pm and 5 pm when many interested parties will be still at work,” bemoaned Danny.
The council stresses the changes will improve, not worsen, facilities at the centre and help them compete with privately-run rivals. A new mezzanine floor will increase the number of exercise stations from 58 to 75, while a new studio and multi-use space will replace the sauna.
Council leader, Coun Graham Baxter, said: “The decision to close the sauna was not taken lightly. But due to its very low usage, the comparatively high cost of providing it, together with the increasing demand for health and fitness activities, we feel this space can be better utlilised.
“We undertook a detailed analysis of what is popular and generating the most usage and income. We are investing in the centre to provide the very latest equipment that will provide an increased income and so ensure that leisure services continue in the future.
“I’d encourage anyone with an interest in our investment plans for Dronfield Sports Centre to go along to the public meeting we are holding next Wednesday.
“The meeting will take place at the centre between 4 pm and 5 pm and will give everyone a chance to have their say and ask any questions they might have.”