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Setting a new WaterMarc

Article image - Setting a new WaterMarc
Banyule City Council has undertaken a massive regeneration of the Greensborough precinct, with the WaterMarc leisure and aquatic facility taking centre stage.

Since opening in September this year, WaterMarc has delighted a large number of locals and visitors alike. One of the most impressive and popular elements of the new facility is the waterslide — ‘Tantrum Alley’ — now the largest indoor waterslide in the southern hemisphere.

In undertaking the decade-long regeneration of the Greensborough precinct, Banyule Council refused to cut any corners, consulting widely with the community and awarding tenders to highly regarded architects, engineers, builders and designers.

The reward for Council’s long-term commitment to the $50 million project ($42 million for the design and construction of WaterMarc; $8 million for the regeneration of the surrounding area) is a revitalised community and business district, and a world-class leisure and fitness centre.

Banyule Council CEO, Simon McMillan, explained that one of the main reasons for the success of the project was Council’s determination to include a large proportion of the community in the process for as long as possible.

“The consultation started with submissions to the Greensborough Structure Plan in 2002. Many members of the community indicated they wanted a focal point for health and entertainment in the region – but one that supported and enhanced residential, commercial and cultural development.”

In consultation with Council, local residents identified the ageing swimming pool in the centre of Greensborough as the location for the project.

In 2004, Council established a community consultative committee to ensure that the views of all stakeholders continued to be heard. The community as a whole was provided with regular updates on the development and construction phase, and Council conducted extensive market research, including a survey of more than 40,000 users of aquatic facilities in Melbourne’s northern region.

The results of Council’s efforts are not only evident in WaterMarc’s enormously popular waterslide, but include a fifty metre competition pool, aqua-play areas for young children with interactive, water, light and sound features, a state-of-the art-gymnasium, a dedicated spin room, and a hydro-therapy, spa and sauna/steam room. The centre also offers flexible workshop/program rooms for conferences and meetings, and has Wi-Fi access.

The design team that brought the Banyule community’s vision to life included Peddle Thorp Architects (who are renowned for their work on sports and leisure facilities across Australia), and the highly experienced structural engineers from Webber Design, amongst others.

Peddle Thorp design director, Peter Brook, said that WaterMarc was a piece of urban design as much as a piece of architecture.

“This is really one of the most successful projects we have done in this field, in which we have been operating for the past 25 years.”

On completion of the centre, Banyule Council hired PR company, Struck and Spink, to put the final creative touches on the project. An informative and attractive website, added to a comprehensive publicity campaign on the part of Banyule Council, has all contributed to the almost overnight success of the facility. In the first three weeks of operation WaterMarc had 46,000 visitors, signed up 3500 members, and over 900 children joined learn-to-swim classes.

While these figures represent an impressive beginning, Banyule Council are keen to point out the longer-term benefits of WaterMarc for the local and wider community. An array of sustainability measures has been incorporated into the structure, such as solar evacuated hot water tubes; energy efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; energy efficient T5 fluorescent and metal halide lighting; sensor-controlled showers and a grey water system for the toilets; a natural gas-fired cogeneration plant; and a 200,000 litre rainwater storage tank, to name just a few.

According to Mr McMillan, “There is every chance that commercial opportunities will flow for Council because of the innovative sustainability features of this project.”

There is no doubt that Banyule Council’s long-standing commitment to the WaterMarc project and to Greensborough’s regeneration will provide a much-needed boost to the local economy, improve residents’ health and wellbeing, and act as a focal point for the local and wider community for many years to come.