Tamworth Regional Council is diving head first into plans for a new "state-of-the-art" aquatic centre with a decision that could shape the future of the region's sports for decades.
A new plan to build a $45 million facility with a 50 metre indoor pool and a smaller warm water pool, both with movable booms and floors to suit the needs of a variety of activities.
Councillors stood in unanimous support of the plan at their most recent meeting on Tuesday, August 8.
The first to speak in support of the new facility to be built at the Northern Inland Centre of Sporting Excellence (NICSE) in Hillvue was Cr Phil Betts, who said the community has been crying out for exactly this kind of facility for decades.
"This aquatic centre has been on the books since before amalgamation, prior to 2004," Cr Betts said.
He said the reason it has taken so long to get to this point is "there was never any money on the table".
Now, council has received $15 million from the state government and has submitted an application for the same amount from the federal government, which will decide whether to support the project in 2024.
Should the federal government decide not to contribute $15 million to the centre, councillors will have to decide whether Tamworth will cough up that extra dough, abandon the project altogether, or pursue a "low-tier option" with "minimum elements" and "limited commercial viability," according to a council report.
One by one, every councillor affirmed their support for the proposed aquatic centre.
Cr Mark Rodda said he's "not holding his breath" for federal funding, but the community's need for a new, affordable aquatic centre makes applying for a federal grant "worth a try".
"It'll be important to keep our new facility affordable to the people of our region, so obliviously not privatised to an unknown organisation. It needs to be maintained by council run by council to ensure it is affordable," Cr Rodda said.
Cr Bede Burke said having an indoor aquatic facility will make a huge difference for the region's competitive swimmers.
"Last year, ten swimmers from this region qualified for nationals. Those ten swimmers had to travel to the Gold Coast because our facilities did not offer the period of time necessary in the lead-up to the nationals," Cr Burke said.
Cr Judy Coates said that time is of the essence given the amount of time it'll take to actually put the pools in the ground given the large amount of planning, design, and construction involved.
"Attempting to build an aquatic centre of this size is always going to be challenging logistically and we need to get on with actually doing this and stepping forward with it," Cr Coates said.
Cr Brooke Southwell said she's excited to see what the proposed facility can provide to the future of the region.
"We also need to make mention of the Northern Inland Centre of Sporting Excellence, which is going to include the Allied Health consult rooms and sports science facility. This will impact not only swimmers, but sports people throughout our region for many years to come," Cr Southwell said.
"There's no doubt that we are a region of world-class athletes and we deserve world-class facilities," Cr Sutherland said.
Cr Helen Tickle said the new plan provides enough flexibility to suit the needs of a wide variety of the aquatic centre's potential users.
"This is state-of-the art technology, a movable floor so we can cater to many different needs, and a boom in the middle separating it into two 25-metre pools ... there's something to meet the needs of many users in one pool," Cr Tickle said.
Cr Steve Mears was unable to attend the latest council meeting due to work commitments.
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