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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Premier aquatic facility makes a splash again

The region’s premier swimming and aquatic facility reopened on Tuesday, much to the delight of athletes, recreational swimmers, families, students and the broader community.

The University of Newcastle and Newcastle University Sport (NUsport) celebrated the important milestone on 15 June at The Forum Sports & Aquatic Centre at Callaghan.

Outgoing Chancellor Paul Jeans, Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky AO and NUsport CEO Deborah Wright were joined poolside by Paralympians Maddison Elliott (swimming) and Lauren Parker (triathlon), Olympian David McKeon (swimming) and Tokyo 2021 Olympic hopeful Nathan Power (water polo) to mark the milestone.

For Elliott, she said facilities like this were vital to develop and maintain a career as an elite athlete.

“The Forum’s new aquatic centre is truly a world-class venue with amenities and accessibility to match,” the 22-year-old Novocastrian added.

“The impact and opportunity for athletes in their preparation for competition at the highest possible level is what excites me most as a Paralympian.”

Professor Zelinsky praised the “meaningful partnership” between the uni and NUsport.

“The fast-tracked refurbishment of The Forum Sports & Aquatic Centre is a great example of our investment in the health and wellbeing of our staff, students and community members,” he said.

“We’ve always sought to have world-class facilities at the University – be they for teaching and research or for the services and amenities we provide to our community – and it was time to give this facility an overhaul.”

Ms Wright was delighted to welcome members back to the pool and resume NUsport’s popular water-based programs, from Learn to Swim to our elite swimmers and all the community.

“The Forum’s upgraded aquatic centre, with its premier facilities and talented staff and coaches, gives us the opportunity to provide a first-class facility and exceptional experience for everyone,” she said.

The University is committed to providing an unparalleled student experience and that includes life outside of classes.

The aquatic centre offers state-of-the-art facilities and equipment for many of the uni’s clubs and societies and the Elite Athlete Program to help pupils create lasting connections and accomplish academic and sporting excellence.

To maintain industry standards and enable competition-level carnivals and meets, the 50m heated indoor Olympic-standard pool has been enabled with touch pad timing, along with a digital scoreboard to ensure the accuracy of race times.

A mobility access ramp was also added to the structure along with an inflatable wheelchair to facilitate greater participation from all our community.

Alongside accessibility, sustainability was a key focus of the project, according to Professor Zelinsky.

“Rainwater tanks supply water for maintenance of the facility and surrounds, LED lighting, climate control energy efficiencies and pool blankets were all included to reduce operating costs and environmental impact,” he said.

“We demonstrate our commitment to our values through our investment in student and staff facilities, like The Forum, that encourage activity and participation that are sustainably developed or redeveloped.”

The refurbishment of the aquatic centre was prioritised with fast-track funding of $7.8m from the university as part of the organisation’s response to COVID-19, with a scope of work that included the upgrade of ground floor amenities with dedicated accessible and family-friendly facilities, installation of a large digital smart screen and creating a modern viewing platform with tiered seating for spectators.

Professor Zelinsky was delighted with the outcome of the project, particularly since it encouraged uni staff and students, NUsport members and the local community to visit and experience the facility for themselves.

“Our university is open for all, and that includes our community,” he said.

“The Forum is a place for the Hunter people to also use and enjoy our facilities.”

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