Phillip Island’s long-awaited aquatic centre would include a 25m x eight lane pool, learn-to-swim area, 24-hour gym, and two indoor sports courts, at a cost of $52 million, according to a feasibility study.
Bass Coast Shire councillors are tonight expected to accept the feasibility study and release it for community consultation, which will run from May 31 to June 27.
The study – produced by Otium Planning Group – examines population projections, environmentally sustainable designs, and operational cost data to guide the future construction and ongoing operations of aquatic centres in both Cowes and Wonthaggi.
While the community has long lobbied for a 50m pool, the Phillip Island Aquatic Leisure Centre study recommends Cowes have a “district level” 25m competition pool. The study states the option of constructing a 50m pool “has been analysed but found to not be sustainable”, based on population size and on the extra $8 million such a pool would require to construct, as well as the annual $250,000 operation costs. It adds a 50m pool could be constructed in the future.
The study recommends the Cowes aquatic centre would have a learn to swim pool (20m x 12m); a 23m x 23m splash pad and a 60m2 toddlers pool; two water slides; a 100-seat spectator area; spa, and dry and steam sauna; change rooms; and in the foyer area there will be offices, a reception, lounge, café, kitchen and storage.
There will be a large 24-hour gym (600m2) with two group fitness rooms.
The study recommends two stages of development with stage one being the aquatic, health and fitness facilities and a future stage two development – “or if funding allows it to be developed as stage one” – two indoor sport courts.
However, the council agenda – to be voted on today - includes two sports courts (but no squash courts) as part of the proposed overall project.
$93 million lobbying
The Bass Coast Aquatic Leisure Centre Redevelopment Feasibility Study recommends a $41 million new pool for Wonthaggi, with the current pool built in 1975. The study recommends Wonthaggi’s pool be upgraded from 25m x six lanes to 25m x 10 lanes, with a larger gym, new spa and sauna. The current indoor sports courts will not be included in the new design because a three-court indoor sports stadium was built at the Wonthaggi Secondary College in 2020.
Bass Coast Shire is expected to lobby both state and Federal governments for the combined Cowes and Wonthaggi costs of $93 million.
Phillip Island Aquatic Centre Fund has for three decades lobbied for a community pool and as recently as last month opposed the shire combining the two aquatic projects.
However PIACF president Don Turner last week told the Advertiser they had reversed their previous opposition to the shire’s proposal to seek joint funding, acknowledging the shire would not seek grants for the island alone.
“The committee is comfortable with council going ahead to seek funding for both centres,” Don said.
But if this funding was unsuccessful “it would be up to councillors to vote on which gets the funding”.
“Our committee will be working with council in seeking funding for both centres,” he confirmed.
Base modelling shows the centre (stages one and two) is expected to operate in deficit in year one to year five, break even in year six and then operate at an annual surplus from year seven. This is based on attendances rising from 290,000 in year one to a high of 320,000 in year ten.
In contrast, “optimistic” modelling shows the centre would have an $18,000 deficit in its first year and then operate in surplus, with attendances rising from 319,000 in year one to a high of 352,000 in year ten. “Conservative” modelling shows an annual operating deficit for all years between $517,000 to $237,000, based on attendances of 261,000 in year one to a high of 289,000 in year ten.
The feasibility study analysed operational costs of the Phillip Island Leisure Centre, off Church Street Cowes, managed by the YMCA (who has a management contract with council until June 30 this year).
YMCA annual statistics show total attendances decreased from 173,848 in ‘17/18 to 158,792 in ‘18/19, while the centre’s operating deficit has been increasing annually and was at $331,000 in ‘18/19.
“The current floor space would see the area suitable to meet the needs of 320 members to 480 members. The memberships base in March ‘19/20 was 691 which is above the theoretical capacity of the gym area and equipment,” the study states.
“This over subscription of members use of the area may be leading to overcrowding at peak times which may result in member dissatisfaction.”
There are currently three outdoor swimming pools within the shire, located at Primary Schools, including one at Cowes.
There are three commercial learn to swim pools in the shire, including two on Phillip Island.
The 2020/21 shire budget allocated $2.8m for creating an aquatic centre business case and planning.
Otium Planning in 1996 wrote the first feasibility study for the Phillip Island Aquatic centre, paid for by state government.
Earlier this year the shire was believed to have paid $2.7 million for the purchase of the carnival land – at the intersection of Phillip Island and Ventnor roads – for the creation of a 32-hectare sports hub, including the aquatic centre.
The feasibility study states the master plan of the proposed Phillip Island Recreational Reserve would be a “separate piece of work scheduled for future years”.
Sporting groups last year said they were “desperate” for expanded facilities, including Phillip Island Football and Netball Club’s Chris Ross, who said they had more than 460 footy members and 160 netball members who can’t all fit on the current Cowes oval.