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Rebuilt Aquatic Centre likely to stay at North Adelaide

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Adelaide Aquatic Centre looks set to remain in North Adelaide, with the majority of city councillors in support of rebuilding the current 50-year-old complex off Jeffcott Road or a new centre at a nearby site close to O’Connell Street.

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The council is also considering building a multi-storey swimming complex and housing development at the old bus station on Franklin Street, but staff have warned that the site is too small and does not include enough space for car parking.

According to the council, the current centre, 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.

Both the State and Federal Governments have been asked to contribute to the estimated $45-55 million cost to rebuild the centre to attract up to 1.3 million yearly visits, but no final decisions have been made as to where it would be located, what services it would offer or how big it would be.

At last night’s council committee meeting, elected members were presented with three potential locations, including the existing Park 2 site off Jeffcott Street, a nearby Park 2 site on the corner of Barton Terrace West and O’Connell Street, or the old Franklin Street bus station.

The council’s property and commercial associate director Tom McCready said the majority of six councillors who responded to a consultation indicated that they wanted to keep the Aquatic Centre in North Adelaide.

He said a new swimming facility could be “comfortably” accommodated closer to O’Connell Street and it would help drive spending at nearby businesses.

But he said access to high-frequency public transport was “limited”.

“It would be perfect if the tram actually got across the bridge and connected up to North Adelaide,” he said.

“It is strategically better if a future tram extension did go across and certainly align itself with the current centre.”

The old Franklin Street bus depot has better access to public transport and could increase spending at the nearby Central Market, but McCready said the 6850 square-metre site would not be big enough to fit a centre that could attract more than one million visitors each year.

He said the site had previously been flagged for affordable housing and he was not aware of any other aquatic facility that was part of a residential development.

“If you were to look at this you would have to go to a multi-storey-type facility,” he said.

“It would also put pressure in regards to parking because effectively you’d be using the whole boundary of that site to achieve an aquatic outcome, so the only option would be to look at the car park to the side, which is currently a paid park.

“It’s an interesting site but I don’t know if it could be achieved.”

Demolishing the existing Aquatic Centre is estimated to cost over $6 million, but if it was to stay operating the council would have to fork out between $16-21 million over the next 10 years.

Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor told last night’s meeting she was “very happy” to keep the centre in North Adelaide, provided it included a 50-metre pool.

“I would support it being on the existing site, I’d also support it at another site in Park 2,” she said.

“I would hope this would become a regional facility that would connect to Prospect and also back into North Adelaide.”

Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor proposed rebuilding the Aquatic Centre in the park lands opposite the Caledonian Hotel. Image: Google Maps

She was supported by north ward councillors Phil Martin and Mary Couros, who said it was “not negotiable” to build the centre elsewhere.

But Martin said ratepayers living near Barton Terrace West might oppose a swimming facility being built close to their houses.

“The decision that is being made on this is a decision for half a century – just as the last one was – and therefore it has to be carefully be considered in the context of growth over the next half century,” he said.

Central ward councillor Greg Mackie and area councillor Franz Knoll, who previously suggested that the council build a new aquatic centre on Franklin Street, said they would support the most commercially-viable option.

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.

InDaily reported last Tuesday that relocating the Crows’ headquarters “close to or in the CBD” was one of incoming club chair John Olsen’s top priorities.

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