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Newcastle Ocean Baths upgrade design signed off

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The upgrade to the Newcastle Ocean Baths has taken another step forward this week, with City of Newcastle finalising the concept design for Stage 1.

The renovations, which focus on improving the ageing pools and lower promenades, is the result of extensive public consultation. 

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the restoration would allow access for all abilities.

“We’ve heard valuable feedback from the Community Reference Group, which represents our broader community and Newcastle Ocean Baths users, and adjusted the design to ensure the Baths meet the needs of our community and visitors,” she said. 

“The big winner has been accessibility improvements, with fit-for-purpose ramps for people with a disability or mobility issue to easily get to and from the pools. 

“We’ve carefully considered the location of the ramp access into the pools and following advice from the CRG and in consultation with disability advocates have realigned the new ramp to the western edge of the pool to allow long lap swimming.”

Aesthetics has also been taken into consideration, The Lord Mayor said.

“We’ve heard our community values the existing rounded central stairs and they’ll be incorporated in the new design within upgraded seating and improvements to ensure they meet modern standards.” 

Co-chair, Hunter Regional Committee of the National Trust, Mark Metrikas, said the council had made a considered effort to maintain the history of the building in its upgrade plans.

“National Trust was concerned to see the rounded heritage stairs missing from an earlier design of the Newcastle Ocean Baths Stage 1 upgrade,” he said. 

City of Newcastle has worked closely with National Trust on seeking advice as to how the stairs can be incorporated into the new design, as well as sharing additional information about the engineering and safety considerations, so as we can get a better outcome for this cherished facility.” 

Other changes made in response to community feedback include replacing the shade structure with a rainproof shade textile with the potential to be removed during the winter season, the colour scheme of extended bleachers and reducing the visual impact of the new lifeguard tower. 

As part of the upgrade, the iconic bleacher seating will be retained, the boardwalk will be renewed and a new pump station which will enable more effective pool cleaning will be installed. 

The concept design also addresses the undulating rock bottom, while retaining the sand floor to facilitate cleaning of the pools and increase user safety when sand levels are low, with sand continuing to accumulate in the pools via natural ocean processes as it does currently. 

The Newcastle Ocean Baths upgrade is a staged project commencing with the restoration of the pools and promenades in mid to late 2021.

Stage 2 will focus on the upper concourse and pavilion building.  

City of Newcastle is committed to funding the renewal of Newcastle Ocean Baths in full and will direct the $9.5 million recovered from the sale of the Frederick Ash Building to the project. 

The sale, it says, was made possible through the relocation of the City’s Administration Centre to its new staff premises at 12 Stewart Avenue, Newcastle West, in October 2019.  

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