New form for old venue
Belgrade Insight visits the recently renovated and reopened Milan Gale Muskatirovic recreational sports and leisure centre beside the confluence of the city’s two great rivers on Dorcol.
First unveiled by Tito in 1973 as the Serbian capital’s premier recreational sports and leisure complex, the-then 25th May Centre for Sport and Recreation was financed by the Municipality of Stari Grad and took a year to build.
Established primarily to cater for children’s physical development through various sporting and physical fitness activities, the centre included four swimming pools, both open-air and covered, a fitness centre, indoor sports hall, open tennis court, pitches for football and handball, as well as a mini-golf course.
It quickly became Belgrade’s top venue for recreational sport and fitness during the 1970s, but mismanagement and a lack of long-term investment led to its closure with massive debts in 2005.
However, determined not to lose its flagship sporting facility, the local municipality quickly took over the centre and began a massive long-term restoration project.
Formally reopened in the summer of 2011 with fully renovated swimming pools, a modern sauna, gym and fitness studio, the 25th May complex is once again impressing visitors and offers a haven of aquatic recreation and exercise in the heart of the city.
Since its reopening, Belgrade Insight reader Federica, a native of Rome and long-term resident of Belgrade, has become a regular at the Milan Gale Muškatirović centre. She appreciates the size of the pools and the fact that everything looks and feels brand new. However, she warns, it gets dirty very quickly and there’s no control of bathers’ footwear, which is often dirty, and nobody making sure people shower before entering the pool.
Fede thinks the complex is aesthetically impressive and likes the excellent lighting system both during the day and evening hours, but she is concerned about a lack of control and bathers’ inappropriate behaviour.
“Some people wear inappropriate outfits and people should not be allowed to bring food or their bags inside the swimming pool area,” Fede insists.
Though complimentary about the layout and overall look of the facility, she notes that there is a general lack of information.
“There is no timetable available, or at least visible, no clear schedule for lessons and no classes available for adults – or at least no information detailing that.”
Admitting that the centre has a very reasonable pricing policy and is by far the best public leisure complex in the city, Federica is still disappointed at the haphazard way the facility is seemingly run.
“There are no notices for swimmers and no separate area in the pools for serious swimmers. Instead, people are swimming in all directions in complete disorder. It’s so wrong and a real shame.”
In addition to a brand new swimming pool, the complex also has new changing cubicles, changing rooms and showers, as well as, officially, a new code of conduct that means bathers may not enter the pool area in regular footwear or without special hygienic slippers.
The centre has somewhat peculiar public opening hours (weekdays from 6.30am to 9am, 3pm to 6pm and 10pm to 11.30pm; weekends from 1pm to 3pm and 9pm to 11.30pm), but is reasonably priced at 300 dinars for an adult swim, 150 dinars for children under seven and 200 dinars for pensioners.
Open year-round and complemented by a state-of-the-art fitness and health centre, combined with the natural surroundings of the rivers’ confluence and Kalemegdan Park, Belgrade Insight recommends a visit to the Milan Gale Muškatirović centre, but warns serious swimmers that they may struggle to avoid splashing teens or verruca infections.