New $80m aquatic centre site revealed

Work on Adelaide’s new aquatic centre will start next year, with Premier Peter Malinauskas today revealing the $80m taxpayer-funded complex will be built immediately south of the existing centre on park lands at North Adelaide.

Sep 05, 2022, updated May 22, 2023
Photos: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Photos: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The new centre will be built on the site of an existing oval in the south-western quadrant of Denise Norton Park/Pardipardinyilla (Park 2) near the corner of Jeffcott Road and Barton Terrace West,

The existing 50-year-old swimming centre, run by Adelaide City Council, will be demolished and returned to park lands.

The state government this morning announced the new centre’s location after a four-month public consultation which garnered more than 900 submissions.

Three potential sites at Denise Norton Park were considered, on the south-western, south-eastern and north-eastern corners.

Malinauskas said the south-western site was chosen because it would result in the least number of trees being felled to make way for the development.

He said the existing car park on the western end of the park would be retained, with the new centre to have the same footprint as the current facility once it opens by 2026.

“We think this location makes a lot of sense,” the Premier told reporters this morning.

“It wasn’t necessarily where I thought we would end up, which shows the value of a genuine community consultation exercise where locals can have a view in consultation with the experts to get a better outcome than just a politician making an arbitrary decision by looking at a map.”

Map: State Government

Infrastructure Minister Tom Koutsantonis said Blackfriars Priory School students currently play soccer on the oval on the south-western corner of Denise Norton Park.

He said the government would help the school to find an alternative playing pitch once construction on the new aquatic centre begins next calendar year.

“Soccer is the most important sport in the world and it’s important that people continue to play it,” he said.

“Ultimately, we’d like to see them return to the site after the remediation and demolition of the former site.”

Labor promised ahead of the March state election to spend $80 million rebuilding the new Aquatic Centre, which is no longer considered fit for purpose and has several of its facilities including the diving boards and spas closed due to safety and infrastructure concerns.

The Adelaide City Council had previously tried lobbying the former Morrison and Marshall Governments for funding to rebuild the facility on the south-eastern corner of Denise Norton Park.

The council loses about $2.5 million each year running the centre, with approximately 80 per cent of the 700,000 yearly users residing in other local government areas.

The current Adelaide Aquatic Centre is over 50 years’ old. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Malinauskas said the existing aquatic centre would stay open while the replacement facility is built.

“It’s a project that will cost in excess of $80 million and that’s from the state government and then we anticipate another contribution coming from the Adelaide City Council – potentially with the remediation of the existing site,” he said.

“But, in only a few short years’ time – all being well – we’re going to have a brand-new Adelaide Aquatic Centre in the centre of our city available for all South Australians to be used in an affordable way, to be engaged in a healthy exercise surrounded by beautiful park lands.”

The government has engaged JPE Design Studio and Warren and Mahoney Architects to design the new Aquatic Centre.

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Koutsantonis said the design phase of the project would take about nine months.

“In terms of the square-meterage it will probably be like for like (with the existing centre), but it might be a different configuration,” he said.

“What we’ve decided to do is to set it back to try to retain as many trees and vegetation as we possibly can.

“The layout currently is basically a big square… but in terms of the actual size of the pools and the pools that will be offered, that’s up for negotiation now with the local community about what their needs are.”

Koutsantonis said the government is currently in contract negotiations with the Adelaide City Council for it to contribute up to $20 million towards the demolition and remediation of the current centre.

He said the government did not believe the November local government elections would impact the contract negotiations.

Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor said the council welcomed the government’s site announcement as it would allow it to consider how the development would impact any existing infrastructure, stakeholders, users, future master planing, remediation and any financial contribution the council might make.

She said given the council enters caretaker period tomorrow, the decision to contribute ratepayer money would need to be made in the next council term.

“Prior to the March state election, on behalf of Council, I sought co-investment from all levels of government in a new Aquatic and Wellbeing Centre that would be built, owned, and operated by the City of Adelaide,” she said. 

“The Malinauskas Government’s election commitment is for an asset that is entirely the responsibility of State Government – any financial contribution by Council will need to be considered in that context.

“Council is committed to working with the State Government to realise the delivery of this project as well as enhancing the amenity of the surrounding park lands.”

Verschoor said the council was committed to no net loss of park lands and that the Kadaltilla / Park Lands Authority be engaged by the government throughout the design and construction process. 

Adelaide Park Lands Association president Shane Sody criticised the decision, saying there were 61 trees including 11 sugar gums, eight “iconic” river red gums and six Morton Bay fig trees in the south-western corner of the park.

He said a survey conducted by the association in July which received 682 responses found “overwhelming support” for building a new aquatic centre on a brownfield site near the city, such as in Thebarton, Hindmarsh Bowden or Brompton.

“The Government’s decision, announced today, represents a win-loss,” he said.

“Restoring the site of the current aquatic centre to park lands is welcome, of course, but it entails inflicting a brand-new wound to Adelaide’s open green public park lands.

“It would have been a win-win if the State Government has listened to their own voters and targeted a near-city brownfield site instead.”

The Adelaide Football Club in 2019 proposed bulldozing the current 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.

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