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Taxpayers asked to splash out for new city aquatic centre

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Adelaide City Council has asked the state and federal governments to contribute over $40 million towards the cost of building a new aquatic centre in the city or North Adelaide in the hope taxpayers can foot the bulk of the bill.

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The council’s property associate director Tom McCready said that he had written to the State Government on two occasions seeking “quite significant” funding for a new or redeveloped aquatic centre in the city or North Adelaide.

He said he had requested a similar amount from the Federal Government, but the council was yet to receive a response from either government.

McCready refused to reveal how much money the council had requested, citing confidentiality, but he described the funding requests as “well north” of $40 million.

“We’re hedging our bets in regards to going in for full amounts from both parties, noting that there will be a negotiation point should they be accepted,” he told members during last night’s council committee meeting.

“Based on previous conversations, where estimates have been made on facilities, on 1 million to 1.3 million visitation figures… that’s where we’re pitching with both parties.

“We’re coming in at the high end with both parties, hoping that they can actually accommodate the majority of the costs.”

According to the council, the existing aquatic centre in Park 2, which runs at an annual operating deficit of $2.5 million despite attracting over 700,000 yearly visits, is reaching the end of its lifecycle and requires “significant investment” over the next ten years to make it more commercially viable.

The Adelaide Football Club last year proposed bulldozing the centre and building a new $65 million training and community complex, but the club later withdrew the bid after suffering an economic hit from COVID-19.

McCready said a new aquatic centre build aligned with the State Government’s sports funding strategy, while the council was attempting to convince the Federal Government to provide funding through its social infrastructure agency.

He said negotiations with both levels of government were “progressing rapidly”.

“I think we’ve done the right due diligence in regards to giving them the right information they need to have for them to make a right assessment,” he said.

“Ultimately, where we wish to get to is to understand the future of the aquatic centre in regards to the location, services and in regards to the scale of that centre.”

SA Treasurer Rob Lucas said the State Government had received a number of funding submissions from various industry sectors and groups in the lead up to the State Budget in November.

“All of them will be considered in this context,” he told InDaily.

The council has lost an estimated $2.8 million in revenue from the current aquatic centre since July.

That loss was driven by the centre’s forced closure due to COVID-19 restrictions and a related 34 per cent reduction in swim school enrolments.

“We opened (the aquatic centre) slightly late August and had a controlled opening, so it is our intention to get back that $2.8 million figure,” McCready said.

“At this minute I wouldn’t say that we’re apprehensive but we’re waiting to see how restrictions impact on us and we’re waiting to see when warm weather comes in if patronage comes back.”

The council lost $1 million in net costs from the aquatic centre last financial year.

Councillors will meet again in October to discuss what a new aquatic centre could look like and where it should be located.

In July, InDaily reported that the council was considering either redeveloping the existing 50-year-old North Adelaide pool or building a new swimming centre next to Adelaide Oval, opposite Santos Stadium, in the northern park lands or on Franklin Street.

But the council warned that the project was unlikely to go ahead unless the state and federal governments contributed to the cost.

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