The heritage listed Dawn Fraser Baths have now reached a grand old age of 136 years and are dangerously under threat. The proud home of the Balmain Swimming Club, the country’s first Swimming Association and Australia’s First water polo match are now posing a danger to the public.
A recent investigation by Sydney’s Inner West Council have found the Baths are so run down they are a risk to the community. Councilors have commented saying “the baths may need to close due to major risks of structural failure and flood water inundation impacting sewer and electrical safety.” On the back of the investigation the Inner West Council has agreed on a plan to spend $6.7 million to carrying out urgent repairs.
Sourcing such a large amount of funds has cause for concern as the council has been forced to divert $2.1 million that had been set aside for other projects such as town centre redevelopment and indoor sports facilities. However, this will still leave the council with a $2.2 million funding shortfall if their grant application isn’t successful with the NSW government.
Mayor Darcy Bryne has rejected claims that the Balmain Public Square project will handover $1.1 to help pay for the Bath upgrade. Bryne stated “Because of sea level rising and the deterioration of the timber, the whole pool needs to be lifted up which is a very expensive exercise. The simple fact is if we don’t undertake the works to keep the doors open, within a couple years Dawn Fraser pool will be lost.”
Bronwyn Smith, Balmain Water Polo Club devotee and former Olympic gold medalist has commented saying the upgrade is imperative to the club and the Australian Water Polo League. Smith has grave concerns as the club has just registered 500 members for the winter competition and by summer that will double. “We have 20 kids who’ve made it into the NSW teams and we are thriving at the moment and the Dawn Fraser Pool is out heartland.”
The masterplan for the $9.86 million upgrade to the Bath’s is a small part of the Councils $56.58 million pool upgrade. The Ashfield Pool redevelopment tender process is also complete, boasting a massive $31 million and a further $15.72 is budgeted for the masterplan for the Leichhardt Park Aquatic Centre upgrade.