AFTER sitting dormant for nearly three decades, the forgotten pool beneath Melville Plaza is once again open for business – though it now caters to an entirely different clientele.
Last operated by infamous gym industry figure Laurie Potter in the 1980s, the facility re-opened in November as the fourth branch of Kirby Swim, a kids’ swimming school owned by Olympic gold medallist Bill Kirby and his wife Saskia.
Mr Kirby said enrolments were picking up after a slow Christmas period, with many local residents still unaware that Melville Plaza housed a pool.
“The main thing for us at the moment is letting people know there is actually a pool at the shopping centre – when parents come down and see it they’re generally blown away,” he said.
The Kirbys opened their first swim school in 2002, inspired in large part by former national swimming coach and passionate swim safety advocate Laurie Lawrence.
“Laurie is more than just a role model or mentor for the industry – he was instrumental in securing federal funding for the Kids Alive water safety program and has dedicated his life to combating drowning,” Mr Kirby said.
“We speak every couple of months and he is such an emotional guy, but in the best way – when he hears about a tragic drowning it will bring him to tears over how these kind of things just shouldn’t be happening.”
Mr Kirby said he learned to swim in his family’s backyard pool while “still wearing nappies” and urged parents to get their children into swimming lessons before they reached school age.
“All my children could swim across the pool, swim underwater and tread water by the time they were three and a half,” he said.
“When I hear about a four or five-year-old kid that has fallen into a pool and hasn’t been taught to get to edge and climb out it breaks my heart.
“Every kid over three given the right opportunities and encouragement can learn to swim.”