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Olympian throws down gauntlet over Crows' park lands HQ bid

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A former Olympic swimmer whose name adorns the park where the Adelaide Aquatic Centre is located says she will “stand in front of bulldozers” to prevent the Crows from knocking it down to build a multi-million dollar headquarters.

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Denise Norton, who was the first South Australian swimmer to represent Australia at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, had Park 2 named in her honour in April this year.

Norton represented Australia at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games, won a gold and bronze medal at the 1950 British Empire Games and was the first inductee into Swimming SA’s hall of fame.

The 86-year-old is the only living person after whom a park in the Adelaide City Council area has been named.

Norton today sent an email to Adelaide City councillors aligned with the Team Adelaide majority faction, which last week voted against a move to halt the Crows’ unsolicited bid process from continuing until a needs analysis for the existing Aquatic Centre was completed.

Discussions to replace the ageing Adelaide Aquatic Centre on Park 2 with a new sport and recreation facility run by the Adelaide Football Club are shrouded in secrecy, with the council claiming it is yet to receive a formal proposal.

The council decided in March to progress the Crows’ bid to stage two of the council’s unsolicited proposals process, which, according to the council, involves “detailed consideration of the feasibility of the proposal, how it will be delivered, and whether it represents value for money”.

The public will not be consulted until after the council receives a formal proposal from the Crows, with a “community engagement” strategy yet to be devised and the needs analysis assessing the current usage of the Adelaide Aquatic Centre due in December.

Norton addressed her letter – seen by InDaily – as “protecting the Denise Norton Park”.

“I promise I shall stand in front of the bulldozers if any come to knock down the Adelaide Aquatic Centre,” she said.

“Remember Tiananmen Square.”

Norton also said she was a friend of News Corp founder Rupert Murdoch “and if necessary will ask for his help”.

“Adelaide City Council named the park after me,” she wrote.

“I am the custodian and I intend to protect the park for the people of Adelaide, not for a football company with enormous buildings.”

Denise Norton (centre-right) with Adelaide City councillors Robert Simms and Phil Martin, and City of Prospect Mayor David O’Loughlin at the opening of the “Denise Norton Park” in April.

In his reply to Norton – seen by InDaily – south ward councillor Alexander Hyde defended the council’s consideration of the bid.

Sadly, the reality is the bulldozers may need to come for the Aquatic Centre regardless of whether we discuss a proposal from the Crows or not,” Hyde wrote. 

“As you’re probably aware the centre is in very poor condition. So I suppose keep the chains ready either way.

“We also don’t have the money to replace the facility as we’re approaching our debt ceiling. Big projects such as the Frome St bikeway and buying the old Le Cornu site have caused this.”

Hyde said it was a “tad hypocritical” to threaten to contact Murdoch “considering he is no longer an Australian citizen, runs a multi-billion for-profit company that cares little for the community broadly, also because his Fox News network’s rabid endorsement of President Trump is in all likelihood causing more damage to the global environment than anything else we will see in our lifetime”.

“Just some food for thought,” he said. 

“I do at least appreciate the feedback and would encourage you to submit to the public consultation if the process gets to that stage.

“I can’t guarantee others’ views but I will weight your views more than other members of the public given the relationship to the park and the centre.”

Deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad, whose name was attached to the copy of the email seen by InDaily, said he was “extremely respectful and appreciative of her (Norton’s) position”.

“There will be an opportunity for Denise and all members of the public to take part in the consultation process that the unsolicited bid process will trigger,” he said.

“We welcome any position put forward by the community and she (Norton) is entitled to her view just as much as everyone else is.

“But we are yet to receive a formal proposal and still need to know what is going to happen at the site before any decisions are made.”

Area councillor Robert Simms, who unveiled the Denise Norton Park in April and moved that the council halt the Crows’ unsolicited bid process, described Norton as a “great South Australian”.

“It is shocking that just a few months later this public park is t risk of a corporate take over,” he said.

InDaily contacted Norton for comment.

Last week InDaily reported former Labor deputy leader Ralph Clarke sent a letter to city councillors warning against the council being “led down a path they will not be able to retreat from” over the Crows’ unsolicited bid.

Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor said “no deal or decision had been made” as the council was yet to receive a formal proposal from the club.

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