THE University of Newcastle may host state level swimming competitions in the future in its newly refurbished Olympic-size pool, which it has started refilling ahead of its June reopening.
Vice Chancellor Alex Zelinsky said UON had allocated $7.8 million and planned in 2019 the refurbishment of The Forum Sports and Aquatic Centre swimming pool on Callaghan campus.
He said the piping was starting to fail and leak underground.
"[The refurbishment] would have probably occurred in the few years after, but COVID meant that the facility had to be closed because of social distancing, so we used that opportunity to fast-track the project," Professor Zelinsky said.
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"We felt it needed to be a good stimulus during COVID because people needed work and we felt bringing capital works forward it actually helped us be in a position to not only give people an opportunity to work during COVID, but also create something post COVID, which we were coming into, that when this facility's open people can really use it, so it's coming in at exactly the right time."
Professor Zelinsky and NU Sport chief executive Deborah Wright started refilling the 1.7 megalitre pool on Tuesday, ahead of its official reopening on June 15.
"We've always sought to have absolutely the best world class facilities at the university, be it for teaching and research but also for the services and amenities we provide students and staff," Professor Zelinsky said.
"It was time to give this facility an overhaul.
"We've had it around for 20 years and it had a few minor repairs and if we didn't take some bigger steps in recent times the facility would have actually not been able to operate."
Professor Zelinsky said the pool would now be able to host competitions, possibly at a state level.
"Why not?" he asked.
"When you have the right facilities you can attract the events and certainly activate the campuses, we really welcome everyone to our university and that includes the community... it's important to offer the best facilities to our people, but also for everyone to enjoy and utilise, and absolutely, I'd love to have students, young people, learning to swim here, young children, and [for them to] start to see the university and think 'One day I might come here and study'."
The pool was emptied for the first time in 10 years to accommodate the refurbishment, which began with early works starting last April and main works starting last August.
This has included repairing and upgrading the pool structure; building a disabled access ramp; enabling electronic touch pad timing and a swim wall so it can be used for competition-level meets - "let's hope someone in the Hunter can set a world record here" - and replacing all the pool tiles.
UON also refurbished the grandstand; upgraded the ground floor amenities; redesigned the entry level, first aid area and lifeguard tower; and installed a new screen, scoreboard, elevator with improved accessibility and automated and energy efficient climate control system.
In the year the pool has been closed, swimming squads and learn to swim classes have been using Lambton and Wallsend pools.
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