WAVES users are up in arms after it was announced the cafe at the pool is to be replaced with a vending machine.
The move comes as Craigavon Council begin their wind down of localised leisure facilities with the end result being a state-of-the-art leisure complex in Craigavon to replace centres at Waves, Cascades and Brownlow.
Cafe users gathered outside Waves to voice their disapproval at the move on Friday morning.
Doreen Gordon said: “There’s a group of us there all the time. Some go to the pool, some go to the park and some go to the gym. We all end up in the cafe.
“There’s loads of people who use the cafe all the time, people from both sides of the community and all walks of life. Everybody knows everybody and everybody knows Patrica who works there. It was all about companionship.
“To replace the service that Patricia provided with a coffee machine is disgraceful. We’ll miss the cafe big time.”
Doreen said the cafe users planned to put together a petition to protest at the closure.
Waves hosts a number of clubs including Young at Heart and Private Eye, a group for blind and visually impaired people.
Sadie Hamill from Young At Heart told the ‘MAIL’: “We meet in Waves every Wednesday and Friday and the cafe is somewhere that nearly all of our members go. The idea of replacing the cafe with a coffee machine is disgusting.
“What annoys me is the people who are making these decisions to close the cafe and then the pool don’t even use the facilities.
“Clubs like Young at Heart are a lifeline for older people. They didn’t have pools when we were growing up. I didn’t learn to swim until I was 65 and there’s others like me.
“Waves is so important for older people and for school groups. By relocating everything to Craigavon they are ripping apart communities.
“They are also selling ratepayers in Lurgan and Portadown short.”
She added: “They could be in for a rude awakening because I’ve spoken to a lot of people who won’t be using the new centre in Craigavon, they’ll be going to Banbridge and Lisburn instead.”
Norman McCann, who helps to run Private Eye, said: “The cafe is the perfect location for us to meet. If it closes I don’t know what will happen to the club. We’ve been going for 10 years and it allows blind and visually impaired people to get together and do supervised physical activities like swimming or walking.
“I think the cafe should be kept open at least until the pool is closed, not that I agree with the decision to close the pool.”
A council spokesperson said: “Given the current economic climate and the need to provide value for money for the ratepayers, council carried out a review on a number of services including leisure centre catering.
“This revealed that catering within the three leisure centres is running at a financial loss, mainly due to increased competition and the high costs of providing such services.
“Members have, after careful consideration, decided that subsidising these cafes was not sustainable and to replace them with appropriate vending machines.
“A specific date for these changes has not yet been set as a number of staffing and operational implications are currently being worked through.
“Staff have also been made aware of the decision and a full process will be put in place around any staff displacement or redeployment so that any redundancy circumstances can be avoided where possible.”