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City of Newcastle Receives Proposal for $10 million Makeover of Lambton Pool

A $10 million indoor aquatic facility at Lambton Park War Memorial Swimming Centre is part of a tender the City of Newcastle has placed on public notice, for the operation of Newcastle's five swimming pools.


Proposed upgrades by BlueFit Pty Ltd, who have been managing Lambton Swimming Centre since 2014, will also include a gym, new kiosk and new changerooms.

BlueFit has also committed to building accessibility facilities at each of the city's five pools at Lambton, Wallsend, Beresfield, Stockton and Mayfield.

Under the proposed lease of seven years with two possible seven-year extensions and currently on public notice, BlueFit would commit $5 million as part of their successful tender to operate the city's pools.

A decision on whether to award BlueFit the contract to manage Newcastle's local pools will not be made until August following a public notice process that invites comments on the proposed lease.

CN staff have also developed a business case for the internal operation of the pools, which will be considered alongside the external tenders, prior to a final decision by the CEO in August.

The proposed upgrades at Lambton Swimming Centre would see 10 new or improved facilities:

  1. A new 25m indoor warm water pool for improved programs and year-round operations

  2. A new indoor toddlers' pool and changerooms for year-round operations

  3. Refurbishment of the amenities block and changerooms

  4. Accessible change facilities

  5. New health and fitness facilities

  6. New accessibility features for pool access

  7. Upgraded kiosk and cafe

  8. Upgraded Swimming Centre entrance

  9. Improved administration facilities

  10. New multi-purpose room

City of Newcastle CEO Jeremy Bath said a year-round indoor facility at Lambton Swimming Centre was the key request from community consultation on its 20-year pools strategy, adopted in May.

"BlueFit has done preliminary work on an indoor aquatic facility as part of their tender proposal and we are sharing the images to help the community gain a sense of what these improvements at Lambton could look like," he said.

"BlueFit's proposal also includes freezing entry fees at all local pools this Summer season, ensuring that Newcastle pools remain the region's most affordable. Beresfield Pool, which has long had the lowest entry fee of any local pool, will see its general admission fee further reduced to $2.90 when it reopens at the end of September.

"BlueFit has also confirmed that if they are awarded the contract to manage our local swimming pools, local private swimming school operator Joy Of Water will be able to continue to provide swimming lessons from Beresfield Pool as they have done for the past few years.”

Lambton, Mayfield, Wallsend and Stockton Swimming Centres have been operated by BlueFit since 2014. Beresfield has been managed under a hybrid arrangement with the pool managed in-house and BlueFit operating the turnstiles and kiosk since 2017.

Mr Bath said that the decision to place the proposed lease on public notice follows a detailed review by him of the proposal and financial modelling, as well as six weeks of further consultation with key stakeholders including councillors, unions, local MPs and staff.

"During the past six weeks I've reached out to multiple stakeholders, including councillors and unions. An invitation was extended to the State Member for Wallsend; however, I received no response," Mr Bath said.

"My decision to place the lease on public notice was also influenced by the fact that the four local pools managed by BlueFit for the past nine years enjoy significantly lower entry fees than pools operated by other local councils.

"Part of my review during the past six weeks was to determine if ratepayers would be better off if City of Newcastle returned to managing its five local swimming centres, rather than BlueFit.

"This review found that if City of Newcastle were to once again manage its pools, the cost to ratepayers would be up to $39 million more than when compared to the cost of BlueFit managing them.

"This cost will send Council's budget into deficit in at least two of the next five years. To avoid this impact, management would need to consider options such as increasing entry fees or re-prioritising other services or projects.

"The four swimming centres already managed locally by BlueFit enjoy a customer satisfaction rating of 85%, which is higher than the region’s many other public and private swimming centres."

The decision to place the lease on public notice is detailed in a report on the City of Newcastle website. Key factors include:

  • BlueFit's tender provides value for money to ratepayers.

  • Customer service outcomes will be enhanced via the construction of a year-round aquatic facility at Lambton Park War Memorial Swimming Centre including new indoor pools, a gym and new changerooms, as well as installation of accessible facilities at all five sites.

  • The contract does not involve the sale or disposal of the pools, noting Mayfield and Lambton are on Crown Land and cannot be sold.

  • BlueFit operated local swimming centres enjoy extremely high customer satisfaction ratings.

  • Pool users will financially benefit from BlueFit's decision to freeze or reduce pool entry fees this season.

  • BlueFit's $5 million capital investment favourably benchmarks with other outsourced pool contracts in NSW, the ACT and Queensland.

  • BlueFit's tender is consistent with CN's adopted Inland Pools Strategy 2043.

  • BlueFit is a responsible employer with a remuneration structure that exceeds the relevant award.

  • External management of our local pools by an industry-leading organisation reduces risk to ratepayers.

  • CN has undertaken a robust tender process, which has been overseen by an independent probity advisor.

Submissions in writing should be addressed to The City of Newcastle, Inland Pools Lease, PO Box 489, Newcastle, 2300 and be received by close of business Monday 31 July 2023.


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