The Tropicana

The Tropicana

The current plan for the Tropicana is to turn it into an 8,000-capacity venue and the current council has secured £8m in funding to do this. But if it doesn’t have a roof on it it’ll only be useable during the summer unless we get the International Umbrella Suppliers Association to hold their annual convention there during the off-season period.

So do we need the Tropicana to be turned into such a venue if it’s not going to have a roof? We already have the beach and that’s proven itself with T4 On The Beach (50,000 in attendance; around 5x more than the proposed Tropicana capacity) and the Radio One Roadshow (similar attendance) – both Big Name events. We also have the Beach Lawns, the Italian Gardens and a number of fairly sizeable parks where events can be held.

Arguably, then, we don’t need another venue for events. In other words, although the council doesn’t think we need a swimming pool in the Tropicana maybe we should reconsider that idea – even if we have to accept that financially, it won’t be possible to put a retractable roof on it. Then again, the problems that the lack of a roof creates for a swimming pool are exactly the same problems that the lack of a roof would create for an event venue. Perhaps the lack of a roof isn’t as much of a showstopper as some claim.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The Tropicana pool needn’t one of those rectangular pools where people swim lengths to get healthy. It could be more like the Sun Centre on the beach at Rhyl which Denbighshire Council supports. These types of pools are designed with wavy sides and islands in the middle of them.

This design means that you just sort of splash about with your family and have fun, but importantly, because you wouldn’t have to span large distances with structural components in the same way that you would with a conventional swimming pool, this sort of design could mean that it’d be fairly easy to put an artificial floor over the pool during the winter months to use the Tropicana for stuff like an ice skating rink. (Or the umbrella suppliers’ convention.)

And pools are popular. The lido at Portishead is doing well. That doesn’t have a roof. The waterpark down by the Old Colonial is popular with families in the summer too, and that doesn’t have a roof either.

There is, of course, the argument that it’d cost too much to run the pool because heating it would be expensive. That’d be a valid argument if we were planning to just heat it from the National Grid, but if we were a bit more imaginative maybe that wouldn’t be so much of an issue. The pool at Exmouth Leisure Centre is mostly (60%) heated by capturing the heat from a data centre which has cut their energy bills by a considerable amount.

The beach at Weston-super-Mare is one of the town’s main assets, although the tide means that swimming in the sea isn’t possible most of the time and is downright dangerous even when it is possible. We’ve got Marine Lake and I think the council’s done amazing work to bring that back to use but with the best will in the world that’s never going to rival what the Tropicana could be. And because Marine Lake doesn’t have a roof that’s also mostly used during the summer.

What Would I Do About The Tropicana?

Given all of the above, maybe turning the Tropicana back into a pool even if it’s not got a roof is a better idea than using it as a roof-free event venue. We should at least explore this option and maybe even speak to central government to see whether the funds allocated to us to turn it into an event venue could be used to return it to a swimming pool instead. Or even whether we could apply for some more “levelling up” money.

We shouldn’t just accept that a pool will never work because the Tropicana couldn’t break even financially back in the 1990s and the previous proposals to put a pool back into it weren’t viable. We need to think a bit more imaginatively.

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