Monday, April 22, 2024

New end game for Willoughby leisure centre build

Willoughby City Council has confirmed its multi-million-dollar Willoughby Leisure Centre upgrade project is now expected to be completed in 2025.

The project commenced in late 2022 and, when complete, will include a new pool hall with three new pools and a range of sustainability and accessibility improvements, along with an expanded creche and a new sports hall roof.

At its February 2024 meeting, Council considered public and confidential reports on the rebuild.

The public report stated that the original mid-2024 completion date would not be achieved, with the project now envisaged to be completed at some stage in 2025. This followed Council issuing a media release in December 2023 which flagged that the completion timeline would be pushed back, Council said in a statement.

Council has not announced a new project budget, although the project’s originally forecast cost of $38.86 million will increase, it says.

“Council continues to work with its builder (Belmadar) on cost and timeline issues,” a statement from Council confirmed.

It says construction of the project has been impacted by issues such as:

  • The need to install 263 additional piles to support the new pool hall. Due to the presence and operation of the former pool hall, it was not possible to determine – before commencing construction – that the existing piles and ground conditions were not suitable to carry the weight of the new pool hall. 
  • The discovery of large quantities of asbestos contaminated soil resulting in increased costs in relation to asbestos management practices and waste disposal despite pre-construction soil testing.
  • The need to install an additional 44 piles and increase the length of the structural retaining wall to stabilise the site and retain the north-eastern side of the site.

Willoughby Mayor, Tanya Taylor said she was disappointed the project would be delayed, but also welcomed the progress which had been undertaken on the construction site.

“Already our builders have demolished the old pool hall, constructed hundreds of extra piles, capped half the site with concrete and are well underway with construction of the plant room,” Mayor Taylor said.

“Construction at the site is continuing, with the safety of construction workers, centre users and the surrounding community a priority for Council as contaminated material is removed from what was formerly a landfill site.

“Willoughby’s Councillors are now working with staff to ensure the best possible environment to complete this project, in a way which gets best value for our community.

“This is an exciting and game-changing project for our LGA.

“While it is regrettable that it has been affected by unforeseen ground conditions we are also looking forward to its eventual opening and the benefits this will bring our community.

“We are also confident that any budgetary changes to the project will not impact other endorsed Council capital works projects,” she said.

The upgrade has been supported by a $5 million grant from the NSW Government’s Multi-Sport Community Facility Fund, with all other funding coming from Council, including from developer contributions.

At its February meeting, Council also considered a report on its existing Project Management Framework, which outlined recent improvements to how Council manages and reports on major projects such as the Willoughby Leisure Centre upgrade.

Council resolved to ensure that Councillors were notified in real time when the draw down in the contingency fund for a major project is 50%, or $500,000, whichever is lesser. A further report on the ongoing improvements to the framework will be considered at the April meeting.

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