Olympian’s fight to save Kogarah War Memorial Olympic Swimming Pool

Home of champions: Dick Caine at Kogarah War Memorial Pool at Carss Park, with Olympic gold medallist Michelle Ford. Picture: John Veage
Home of champions: Dick Caine at Kogarah War Memorial Pool at Carss Park, with Olympic gold medallist Michelle Ford. Picture: John Veage

Olympic champion swimmer Michelle Ford is heading a campaign to save the Kogarah War Memorial Swimming Pool from being demolished and converted to a car park.

The Olympic gold medallist described the pool at Carss Park as a sacred site for Australian swimming after a Georges River Council report recommended its demolition at the end of the 2018/19 summer season “as the structure has reached its design life”.

The report presents five options for the future use of the site with its demolition as its preferred option to be replaced by a 140 space car space and three multi-purpose sports courts.

But this would only be an “interim arrangement” until the council has determined a final use for the site.

The matter was due to be considered at last night’s council meeting.

Ms Ford said the pool was where she started out on her Olympic career in 1975-76.

“I think it is a sacred site for many people,” she said. “Many sporting greats came out of this site. It is part of Australia’s sporting history.

“It’s not only the champions it has produced, it’s a place where the community joins together.

“The council has already indicated that it is looking to build a smaller-size pool as part of a new facility.

“I don’t understand why they would demolish a pool and put a new pool on the Blakehurst side of the park where there’s heavy traffic, when keeping the existing pool makes more sense.”

Bruce Havilah, who trained at the pool and is now on the board of directors of Swimming Australia, has also called to save the pool.

Call for consultation: Dick Caine, left, and Michelle Ford, centre, with supporters outside the Kogarah War Memorial Olympic Swimming Pool at Carss Park. Picture: John Veage

Call for consultation: Dick Caine, left, and Michelle Ford, centre, with supporters outside the Kogarah War Memorial Olympic Swimming Pool at Carss Park. Picture: John Veage

“I travel a lot with the sport and I can say that wherever we go, there are swimmers from Carss Park,” he said.

Dick Caine has coached many champions at the pool and gym over 50 years including Olympic swimmers Ford and Janelle Elford, marathon swimmer Suzie Maroney, and boxer Anthony Mundine.

“This is highly valuable land on Kogarah Bay and Georges River Council needs to come clean about exactly what it plans to do with it. Will they guarantee that they won’t sell it off?” he said.

“Tens-of-thousands of kids have learned to swim at this pool.

“Seventeen world champions have come out of here. It is one of the few places that battling families can bring their kids to swim for just a few dollars.

“The pool was built about 70 years ago after the RSL raised 25 per cent towards the cost of construction.

“It is called the Kogarah War Memorial Swimming Pool. They want to destroy a war memorial.”

Georges River Council mayor, Kevin Greene, said no decision would be made on the future of the pool until results of the feasibility study on aquatic facilities in the Carss Bush Park area and the open space and recreation facilities reports are completed.

“These are not due until the year of the year,” he said. “We are deferring the report until these studies are completed. There will be full public consultation before a decision is made on what option we will follow.”

The council commissioned a structural evaluation of the pool by Cardno Pty Ltd which found a number of issues relating to the electrical, mechanical, hydraulics and fire services and the structural condition of the pool and associated building.

For the nine months to the end of March the pool had 49,000 visits in total including 10,000 casual visits and 14,000 squad swimmers and Hurstville Leisure Centre in the same period has attracted around 900,000 visitors and swimmers.

The council report presents a number of options. Refurbishing the pool would cost $5 million.

Its preferred option, demolition of the pool and converting the site to 140 car spaces and three multipurpose courts would cost $1.7 million.

Michelle Ford said the Friends of Carss Park Pool want community consultation for everyone affected by the plans.

“We want to work with the council to make this pool live on,” she said.

“This is our history. The Dawn Fraser Pool (at Balmain) was in contention but was saved and upgraded. We have to save our own sporting history.”

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