THE first deputy manager and activity manager of the Oasis Leisure Centure mourned its closure and urged for the iconic Swindon landmark to be saved.
Chic Carvell told the Adver he was shocked, “to put it mildly”, when he heard that the facility would not re-open after lockdown lifted.
He fondly remembered the crowds of people who flocked to use the centre’s top-notch facilities back in its heyday.
Mr Carvell was appointed to his new role in October 1975 and opened the Oasis on January 1 1976, welcoming 23,000 people from Swindon and beyond who were all eager to get a glimpse of the iconic leisure centre.
He added: “The pool was obviously a major attraction, what with the wave machine being of great interest and amazement, especially to the children.
“A host of timetabled activities were put together which involved the use of all the different areas both indoors and out-doors by clubs in the Swindon area.
“Unfortunately, six days after opening the pool we had to close it down due to technical issues but by the summer of ’76 it was up and running and welcoming thousands of families during that very hot summer.
“The activity attendants we had at that time were absolutely brilliant as they coped with the very warm atmosphere inside the dome looking after the safety of the swimmers.”
He remembers clubs for badminton, basketball, rollerskating, indoor bowls, gymnastics and other sports and activities all using the facilities along with thousands of casual visitors playing games of squash, snooker and badminton.
Chic added: “The centre was busy every night and at weekends, and a loyal staff ensured a high standard of service was maintained. In addition to the day-to-day activities available to the population of Swindon and surrounding areas, children’s holiday activity programmes were also available and the uptake was excellent.”
By 1979, the one millionth visitor had walked through the doors and architects from the UK and Europe popped in to see the dome and other interesting aspects of the building’s design.
Swindon had one of the first integrated arts and recreation departments under the direction of Dennis Hodson, who was at the forefront of overseeing the development and management of Swindon’s leisure facilities.
For this and several other reasons, Chic argues that the Oasis is worth saving and preserving for future generations to enjoy.
He asked: “How was it possible that that such an important social facility was allowed to fall into the hands of a private company who look only for profit?
“A facility like the Oasis should be run for the community it serves by the council and supported by the government of the day, just as it was, when it was first built.
“The two lockdowns have shown how important exercise is to sustaining sound mental and physical health. What is going to happen to the Oasis?
“Is it going to be left to rot or will it be knocked down to make way for some form of commercial development to make Seven Capital lots of money? How can the council allow this company to develop the North Star Indoor Ski Slope complex. What is Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland going to do to save this iconic facilty?
“Good words from them both, but action is needed by them and the council to find how to finance the running of the Oasis as it used to be in the early days with packed pool use, top sporting events and great concerts which came to the Oasis to entertain a full house of 1,500 in the main hall.
“Surely this is a situation where all political parties should work together to secure the future of this iconic leisure centre for the ever-expanding community of Swindon?”
South Swindon MP Robert Buckland responded to Mr Carvell’s concerns.
He said: “The Oasis is a very important local amenity for us all here in Swindon, including my family.
“I have already spoken to the owners of the site, Severn Capital and urged them to work closely with Swindon Borough Council to find a way forward that will allow the Oasis to reopen and for improvements to be made to a much loved local amenity.
“I will carry on working to try and achieve a positive outcome for all of us who know and love the Oasis.”