A $6 million dome over the outdoor pool at Waterworld is being floated as a way to provide more swimming options in Hamilton and would be much cheaper than the expected $26m cost of a new pool.
A dome over the existing outdoor pool would give Hamiltonians increased access to swimming space from 2023 if Hamilton City Council can secure community support for the plan.
The council wants to rectify a severe shortage of swim space in the city by putting a $6m dome, funded by debt, over the pool to make it usable all year round. Currently it closes from Easter to Labour Day each year.
The council says the dome would cost the average Hamilton ratepayer $13 per year (for 10 years) and is one of two options to be put forward for public feedback as part of the council's draft Long-Term Plan. The second option would see a new pool being built in the city in 2025/26 at a forecast cost of $26m.
Councillor and Community Committee chairman Mark Bunting is a big fan of the council's preferred dome proposal.
"It's a reasonably quick fix and would give the city seven more months of summer at Waterworld – imagine that! It means we would have a fantastic city asset being fully used instead of sitting there doing nothing for half the year," he said.
"It would also take immediate pressure off finding lane space. We can move fast and address an acute shortage of swim space in a way that's affordable. These domes have been used widely around the world for nearly 40 years. They cover pools, sports fields and large recreational facilities in a far more cost-effective way than traditional and expensive bricks and mortar," he said.
"Our city is crying out for more swimming space and we're not in a position to build a new pool in the next 10 years, so this is the right solution at the right time. To me, the dome makes a lot of sense."
Last year more than 271,000 people visited swimming pools at Waterworld or at the Gallagher Aquatic Centre in Melville. But the city's growth is putting more pressure on recreational swim space and it's not expected to subside.
Mayor Paula Southgate said in her view, building a new pool for the city is just not "do-able" at this time.
"In an ideal world I think all councillors would love to see new recreational and sporting facilities in Hamilton, and not just swimming facilities either. But we have to live within our means. To me, a dome is a great way of addressing an immediate issue in a way that's affordable for ratepayers."
Budget for the dome is included in the council's 2021-2031 draft Long-Term Plan budget, which goes to the public this month for comment.
Final decisions will be made once the budget is locked down in June. Before then, the council will undertake a comprehensive public engagement programme on what it is proposing to spend – and when – over the next decade.
Public engagement on the draft Long-Term Plan runs from March 5 to April 7.