A perception in the public that ratepayers voted no to a referendum for the indoor aquatic centre is a myth, according to Swimfit chair Rob Williamson.
The lobby group behind the long-term push for the facility handed over its $100,000 contribution to Orange City Council yesterday when the centre was officially opened by duty senator for Calare Matt Thistlethwaite.
Mr Williamson paid tribute to the community support to raise the money towards the complex, with the final amount topped up by the group’s corporate sponsor Orange Credit Union.
He said the referendum for the pool was rejected many years ago because ratepayers did not want their rates increased for the facility, not because they did not want a pool.
Mr Williamson renewed calls for the pool to be made free to give all residents an opportunity to try it out and ideally kept free forever - following criticism levelled at entry prices.
“You’re sitting on a knife edge over the fees structure,” he said.
“You’ve got your gym-junkie pools... but this is different, it’s family orientated.
“They should make it free for 12 months, what’s the worse that could happen?”
The federal government contributed $3.6 million to the complex to go with the council’s $4.5 million.
In opening the centre, duty senator for Calare Matt Thistlethwaite said drowning statistics indicated not enough Australians knew how to swim.
“That’s why a facility such as this is so important,” he said.
“I grew up swimming and on those cold winter mornings you don’t want to go in ... but we’ve moved on and this is a wonderful facility where our squads and our kids can swim all year round.”
Mayor John Davis said the end result of the centre had been worth all the hassle.
“It’s fantastic to have challenges, if you don’t the area is stagnant,” he said.
Cr Davis played down the delays and other problems that had plagued the pool and joked about the 25-metre pool being found to be too long and later fixed.
“It’s like someone saying they’d never made a mistake,” he said.
“As far as I’m concerned you’d sack the bloke because he didn’t have a go.”
All swimmers will be able to try-out the pool for free at a community day planned before Christmas.