Bathers will be back in the water at the iconic Newcastle Ocean Baths this summer with the popular coastal pool slated to re-open next week.
The facility will welcome swimmers back from Thursday, December 21 after being closed since construction on the pool and promenade areas kicked off in March last year.
To mark the occasion Newcastle Council has invited the community to come together and celebrate with a morning swim event from 7.30am on the 21st, with music, free coffee and the opportunity to capture a Summer Santa photo on the newly restored bleacher seating.
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the re-opening marks a major milestone for the project.
“I am pleased to see this important project progress and to have Novocastrians back in the baths this summer,” Cr Nelmes said.
“This upgrade will ensure generations of Novocastrians will be able to create their own special memories at this popular community facility.”
There has been a few unexpected challenges along the way including the need to fully replace the pool walls.
Restoration of the bleachers to their iconic teal-green colour has taken place, along with the installation and testing of the new pump system.
Executive Manager of Council’s Project Management Office, Robert Dudgeon said all that is left to do is apply a few finishing touches.
“We have undertaken a period of testing and commissioning for the new pump system over recent weeks, and with that process nearing completion, our contractor will be applying the finishing touches to the pool and surrounding areas before we welcome the community back for swimming.”
Construction will continue at the southern end of the site, with minor works near the Canoe Pool set to be complete in early 2024.
The site’s existing amenities and change facilities will be open for use in line with the return to swimming.
Attention now turns to the next stage of the project, with Principal Design Consultant Tonkin Zulaikha Greer working to prepare concepts for the future upgrade of the pavilion buildings, including the heritage façade.
“Appointment of the Principal Design Consultant in September was an important step for the project, bringing together feedback from the community and the findings of technical studies to develop more detailed options for the upgraded pavilion buildings,” Mr Dudgeon said.
“We will continue to engage with the Newcastle Ocean Baths Community Reference Group and the wider community throughout this process, as the designs are developed.”
The $9.5 million recovered from the sale of the formerly Council-owned 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.
Meantime, the Friends of Newcastle Ocean Baths Incorporation have nominated the baths and canoe pool to be listed on the State Heritage Register.
The nomination includes the baths façade and portico, the canoe pool and the rock shelf south of the Crowie Hole.
The Newcastle Ocean Baths is already listed on the National Trust Register and in the Newcastle Local Environment Plan but is not currently protected by the State Heritage Register.
President of FONOB Inc., Peter Wickham said it was past time the site was listed.
“The nomination submitted is timely considering there will be a multi-million-dollar stage 2 restoration of the baths begun perhaps in late 2024 or early 2025. The final details of what the design will be is unknown at this stage,” Mr Wickham said.
“However, with a successful listing of the baths complex on the State Heritage Register we believe that all, including the City of Newcastle, would want Heritage NSW to be able to act as an arbiter on this restoration process”
“We appeal to the Honourable Penny Sharpe to expedite this nomination as the Newcastle Ocean Baths complex deserves this long overdue protection.”
FONOB Inc.’s nomination was received by Heritage NSW on Wednesday this week with support from the National Trust (NSW) and Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp.
“The Baths complex is an iconic piece of Novocastrian architecture that holds a special place in the hearts of everyone who have enjoyed a swim in its safe waters,” Mr Crakanthorp said.
“This rich piece of Newcastle’s history is of great state heritage significance and should be protected and preserved for generations to come.”