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Newcastle Ocean Baths upgrade final stage: what do you want?

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We’ve been waiting with bated breath for the Newcastle Ocean Baths upgrade to be completed since works began on the revitalisation of the iconic structure in March 2022. 

It seems now City of Newcastle (CN) is teasing Novocastrians with another waft of anticipation, calling for community input into the functionality of the pavilion buildings at its façade. 

And, while we’re still being advised we’ll be plunging into its depths by this coming summer, we’re hoping this is the last of the pauses in production. 

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes has suggested we can start to get excited about the re-opening, but first things first. 

“It’s exciting to see the pool area take shape because this is such an important facility for Novocastrians and the broader region,” she said.  

“Before design of the pavilion buildings starts, it’s important to understand what the community needs from the facility, and how that could be achieved given the location and constraints of the site.” 

City of Newcastle executive director city infrastructure Joanne Rigby agreed, adding the prized address needed to be an inclusive community space, while also maintaining its unique character and heritage features.   

“Different building configuration options present different experiences for users, and it’s essential we consider the needs of the broader community now and for decades to come during the renewal of the pavilion buildings,” she said.   

“A User Needs Analysis is underway to examine requirements like community space that welcomes all visitors in an accessible and inclusive way and is sensitive to the site’s heritage, as well as being resilient to coastal inundation and predicted sea level rise.   

“We have developed different layout options and are looking for feedback from the community given the broad range of people’s individual opinions and needs.”   

Members of the Newcastle Ocean Baths Community Reference Group have been regularly meeting with council and offering thoughts on accessibility, options for a café and kiosk to operate alongside community spaces, and change facilities. 

There has also been talk of an expanded community space, with a second storey added to the northern pavilion. 

The upgrade itself is progressing nicely, according to CN executive manager project management Robert Dudgeon. 

The pool itself is nearing completion and precast concrete panels have been installed in the wet well area to support the new pumps, which have arrived and will be installed over the winter period.  

“We are continuing work to restore the historic bleachers, and foundations are in place for the return of the historic art-deco curved stairs leading from the pool up to the pavilion area,” Mr Dudgeon said.  

“As we near completion of the pool, we are constructing the new pool deck, which will provide a safer surface for walking around the pool edge.  

“Once construction is completed there will be a period of commissioning and testing the new pumps and systems, with a re-opening of the pools and return to swimming anticipated by summer this year.”  

The $9.5 million recovered from the sale of City of Newcastle’s Fred Ash building is helping fund the Newcastle Ocean Baths stage one upgrade along with $3 million in funding from the NSW Government’s Public Spaces Legacy Program, which is an investment in high-quality public open space and delivers vital infrastructure for communities to love the place they live.   

Community members are encouraged to visit newcastle.nsw.gov.au/yoursay to learn more about the project, view the preliminary options, and provide feedback by 12 June. 

The feedback will inform the concept design of the renewed pavilion buildings, which will start in the coming months.   

For more on the Newcastle Ocean Baths upgrade:

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