Frequently asked questions
about the Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre
(updated October 2018)
Why is Council proposing to build a new aquatic and arts facility in Batemans Bay?
The current outdoor 50-metre pool is only open for around six months of the year. It is 50 years old, nearing the end of its life and isn’t meeting the needs of our community.
For a long time, residents have expressed a desire for something better.
The arts community in Batemans Bay has also been calling for a purpose-built arts and cultural centre.
We will demolish the old outdoor pool and build a modern aquatic and arts facility that everyone can benefit from.
What might the new indoor aquatic and arts facility include?
It’s too early to be able to say exactly what will be included in the final design. The detailed design will be guided by the available budget. We are committed to ensuring that what is built is affordable and will meet the community’s broader needs well into the future.
Councillors endorsed the following concept in August 2017:
An indoor aquatic centre with:
- 25-metre, 10-lane pool with ramp access
- 10-metre warm water therapy pool and spa
- freeform indoor leisure pool that includes learn-to-swim and toddler areas
- water play splash pad
- gym, group fitness and wellness area
An arts and cultural centre with:
- large flexible, flat floor auditorium with retractable seating for 500 people
- dressing rooms, green room and storage
- gallery/exhibition space and storage
- rehearsal/dance studio/music room
- ‘wet’ arts workshop space and storage
- ‘dry’ arts workshop space and storage
- meeting room
- multi-purpose room
Shared facilities with:
- visitor information service
- administration offices
- plant and support services
When will building start and how long will the pool be closed?
We expect construction to start in early 2020, opening in June 2021. We anticipate swimmers will miss two seasons of swimming at Batemans Bay pool during construction, after which the community can enjoy the facility year-round.
Why five separate pools?
The various activities proposed require different pool temperatures. Lap swimmers need a pool with water temperature around 26 degrees so they don’t overheat. People using a therapy pool require 33 to 34 degrees so they remain warm while exercising. Toddlers and small children in learn-to-swim classes require a pool that is 30 to 32 degrees.
A 25-metre x 10-lane lap pool can cater to lap swimmers in a 26 degree pool, while activities and programs are happening in the four other pools at the right temperature for each activity. The total pool surface area is proposed to increase from 665m2 (the current 50m pool) to 1202m2 (based on the concept).
Why does the aquatic centre concept have a 25-metre pool and not a 50-metre pool?
We were aware at the start of this project that some members of the Batemans Bay community wanted a 50-metre pool. That’s why we specifically asked our consultants to consider the provision of a 50-metre and a 25-metre pool when providing their advice to Council.
As part of the process to prepare a business case and concept, we obtained independent, professional advice that there is a limited market for lap swimming when compared to the strong demand for recreation, program and therapy pool space. If we provided an indoor purpose-built, 10-lane 25-metre pool for the training needs of swim club members and lap swimmers, we could also provide a warm-water program pool and a leisure and learn-to-swim pool, meeting the needs of more community members.
Given the additional construction and operational cost of a 50-metre pool, it is likely that the warm-water program pool or the learn-to-swim area would need to be sacrificed if a 50-metre pool was included. This would limit the facilities available to meet our community’s needs. To include a 50-metre pool would have also weakened our business case, undermining the strength of our grant application.
Why would a 50-metre pool construction cost $6.5 million more and $300,000 more per year in ongoing costs?
The costs associated with constructing an indoor 25-metre pool compared to an indoor 50-metre pool are considerably more than just extending the pool by 25 metres.
Circulation space around the pools is required to ensure their effective and safe operation. It would not be possible to incorporate a 50-metre indoor pool without significantly increasing the size of the pool building. Incorporating an additional 26.5 x 28 metres of pool space (includes a 1.5m fibreglass bulkhead to enable the 50-metre pool to be divided into two separate pools, and a minimum four-metre concourse on both sides of the additional water) will add up to 742m2 to the roof structure and additional walls.
The inclusion of a 50-metre pool in preference to the 25-metre pool would also significantly increase the costs associated with the plant room’s specifications for water circulation, treatment and filtration. The inclusion of a 50-metre pool would increase the operating costs due to the additional staff required to supervise the additional area. There are also increased costs associated with maintaining the larger water area such as chemicals and materials, as well as additional energy costs.
Where will local schools and swim clubs have carnivals and meets?
The 25-metre pool will comply with the International Swimming Federation’s short course competition requirements, making it capable of hosting regional and NSW age events. All of Council’s swimming centres are currently used for carnivals and many local schools use Moruya’s 25-metre, eight-lane pool for school carnivals. Long-course events can be held at Narooma’s indoor 50-metre pool year-round.
How many people use our three pools now?
Public swimming pools are a service provided by Council to the community. Maintenance and operating costs are much higher than the income received from entry fees at all three pools in Eurobodalla, and for most council-operated pools in NSW. So the size of the pool in relation to how many people use it is important. What they use it for is also important.
Our five-year visitation data shows that the 25-metre outdoor pool at Moruya is more popular than the 50-metre outdoor pool at Batemans Bay, with both of them opening for about 26 weeks of the year (increased to 28 weeks in 2017). On average, the Moruya 25-metre pool has more visits per week than the other two pools.
In the past five years, 478,410 people visited our pools. Narooma pool accounted for 45 per cent of visitors, Moruya 31 per cent and Batemans Bay 24 per cent. The total average visits per week over the past five years is estimated to be 887 in Narooma, 888 in Batemans Bay and 1,154 in Moruya.
What's in the arts centre?
The preliminary concept is based on providing a vibrant and usable arts, events and theatre space that meets the needs of the arts and broader community. An auditorium with retractable seating for up to 500 has been included in the concept to satisfy requirements for touring shows or larger events. There is other floor space allocated to arts and community spaces and rooms in the concept, so there will be scope during the design stage to investigate other configurations in the building footprint. This will depend on the budget, although feedback from the community shows there is a need for dedicated arts and community spaces and rooms. Other options – such as including a larger space suitable for occasional large commercial exhibitions, events and conventions – were considered during the preparation of the business case and concept. Ultimately these options were not included because it couldn’t be demonstrated that they would meet the needs of the arts and broader community in an affordable and responsible way.
The option still exists for the private sector to provide a convention and events space as part of the development of the northern section of the precinct (former bowling club). Council will go out to the market in a competitive process to determine interest in the site. If there is a business case for these facilities, the private sector will be best placed to take on the commercial risks, rather than exposing ratepayers.
Why are you proposing to build an aquatic centre and an arts and cultural centre as one building?
Council considered the options for two separate buildings and a combined building. Ultimately they resolved to apply for funding for a combined facility because it would cost much less to construct and operate. This means that more of the budget could be spent on inclusions that meet our community’s needs and priorities.
Separating the facilities would cost about $2.97 million more to operate over 10 years when compared with the concept adopted by Council. The proposed concept has a shared foyer with a reception area, café, gallery, visitor information services and associated retail and car parks.
The cost to build the facilities if they were separated was estimated to cost $2.72 million more than the concept adopted by Council.
Also, a combined facility on the southern part of the precinct leaves the freehold Council-owned land to the north (the former bowling club site) available for other development such as tourist accommodation and events and convention facilities.
Why couldn’t the old bowling club be the arts and cultural centre?
The bowling club building was built to be a club, not an arts centre. It was also old and in poor condition.
Council investigated the costs of restoring it to a standard where the community could use it soon after it was purchased. Estimates showed it would cost about $90,000 upfront to restore to a usable state, about $86,000 every year after that for repairs and renewals, and $120,000 a year for operating costs, some of which could have been offset by revenue from venue hire.
Significant work would have been required to modify the building for an arts centre. Because of this, the additional operational cost, and that utilising the building for this purpose would restrict other uses such as convention and events, or tourism accommodation, a purpose-built arts facility was proposed to meet the community’s needs.
What will happen to the old bowling club?
Council has leased the former Batemans Bay bowling club site to Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) for its use during construction of the new Batemans Bay Bridge. The site will be used by RMS as the main compound for the bridge project and will include a temporary office and storage for vehicles, materials, plant and equipment.
The lease commenced in July 2018 for a three-year term with a one-year extension option.
RMS intends to demolish the building to allow more efficient use of the site.
A valuation revealed the site was worth more with the building demolished. It is more cost effective for ratepayers if RMS demolishes the building rather than Council demolishing it at the end of the lease.
Items of local and sentimental value were removed in consultation with members of the local historical society and bowling clubs, and remaining items have been sold or re-used by Council.
How was the architect selected?
In February 2018, Council started a two-stage process to find the best architect to design the Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre. The first stage involved advertising an Expression of Interest (EOI), which cast a broad net out to the market and helped us identify matters that needed to be considered in the tender process.
The community-based Mackay Park Sunset Committee helped Council develop the design principles in the EOI. These include how the building and the arts and aquatic elements are presented, safe and comfortable spaces for people to meet, access for people of all abilities, flexible arrangement of rooms for multi-purpose use, opportunity for staged construction and potential expansion of the facilities in the future, management of acoustic and odour issues, use of technologies, sustainability and affordability.
The EOIs we received were reviewed and shortlisted by a panel, which included independent experts. Shortlisted architects were then invited to submit tenders for the design of the new centre.
Sydney-based NBRS Architecture was appointed to design the centre in September 2018.
How is Council involving the community in this project?
Council has consulted with the community over many years on a range of projects related to aquatic, arts and cultural facilities. Soon after purchasing the bowling club site in 2016 we asked the community for ideas about its future uses. Later in 2016, Council established the Batemans Bay Mackay Park Precinct Sunset Committee so that community representatives could be involved in helping us plan the project and oversee the community engagement. The committee included representatives from community groups including Batemans Bay Indoor Aquatic Centre, Batemans Bay Chamber of Commerce, PerFex, Batemans Bay U3A, and South Coast Pastel Society. Council has met with many individuals and groups about the proposed concept. We also held two community information sessions in August 2017 and information kiosks in Batemans Bay in February 2018.
Now that architects have been appointed, they will be meeting with a range of local user groups at the end of October 2018 to determine their requirements. More than 90 groups will be consulted, including swimming clubs, arts groups, schools, health, business and disability sectors. We have also talked to travelling arts and theatre providers to determine their needs. Members of the community are also welcome to put forward feedback until 31 October about how they will use the centre.
Once design options have been prepared by the architects early in 2019, the whole community will be encouraged to have a say about their preferences.
We continue to provide as much information as we can and we do this on our website, through our newsletters, media releases and social media, and by responding to questions from the community and media.
Where is the money coming from to build the facility?
In March 2018 we secured $26 million funding from the NSW Government to go toward building the centre. We’re now counting on the federal government to pitch in and we continue to apply for federal funding. In the meantime, we’re working to be as ready as we can to start building the centre after funding is secured, or to take a staged approach to construction while we wait for further government funding to become available.
The project cost, based on the preliminary concept, is estimated to be $46 million. Council may also consider allocating some funds from its budgets, and other funding sources such as loan funding.
If we don’t secure the full amount in funding, Council will review the proposal and prioritise what is included to ensure the final design includes the community’s highest needs and that it can be built within the available budget. The business case for the $46 million proposal is only affordable if sufficient grants and external funding is secured.
The sale or leasing of the Batemans Bay visitor centre will also contribute towards the costs as these services will relocate into the new facility. A similar arrangement may occur for the Batemans Bay Community Centre.
Where will money come from for the facility’s operation and maintenance?
The money will come from Council’s existing budgets.
There is also potential for new income streams from the lease or sale of the existing community centre and visitor information centre to meet any increase in ongoing costs, as well as opportunities to progress the development of the former bowling club site.
Will rates go up to pay for it?
Council has no plans to increase rates to pay for this project. Council is committed to building an affordable aquatic and arts facility that meets the needs of the community and does not require a rates increase to pay for it.