We tried out the new x-million pound Gateshead Leisure Centre yesterday - and came away not very impressed. It tries hard....but fails on lots of counts if you're wanting to get a small child to swim.
On the plus side, the water's far warmer than it ever used to be (Byker pool, take note). And everything's clean, bright and obviously reasonably well-specced. But there's some glaring problems that make you think that whoever planned the refit really didn't think about small children:
(a) Signage. Now I know small children can't always read - but for the poor parents trogging around carrying towels, bags, small children, it would be really useful if things like the pool, toilets etc were properly signposted. There's a couple of signs, tops.
(b) Small pool: yes, it's beautifully clean. But there's nowhere to put towels/bags etc apart from on the (damp) floor. It's freezing cold when you get out of the water with a small child - you need something to wrap them up in straightaway (given that you'll be wandering the corridors for a while to find your way back to your locker - see above).
(c) While I'm on the subject of lockers - it's a complete rip-off that you have to buy a token at reception for 20p on top of the price of the swim. Why not just include it in the price?
(d) Showers. Lots of 'em. Good....apart from the fact that they're set way too high in the wall, and spray water indiscriminately. You try getting a freezing cold small child under one without it wailing.
My verdict? Could do better. We're going back to Birtley (until it too is refitted out of existence).
UPDATE: I emailed Gateshead Customer Services, and was called back very speedily by Brian Hewitson, the centre manager. We had a great discussion, and he's thinking about the issues above (especially where to put your towels by the small pool, and the signage). Apparently the disabled showers (which would be useful for small children) were installed last week, but ripped off the wall on Sunday... (I sometimes despair of Gateshead residents).
Anyway, a great example of (a) how commenting/complaining/making your point heard can see results and (b) good customer service on behalf of Gateshead Council.