Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre will once again be the jewel in Moree's crown, when the long-awaited reconstruction of the Olympic pool is complete, according to mayor Katrina Humphries.
"It has always been the jewel in our crown and it will be our jewel again," Cr Humphries told The Moree Champion.
The reconstruction has been years in the making, ever since a number of issues arose following the redevelopment of the facility in 2012.
"Since completion of the redevelopment, a range of issues associated with the Olympic pool have impacted the way local community members, visitors from the surrounding region and tourists alike could use the Olympic pool," MPSC general manager Lester Rodgers said.
"With council being the owner of the MAAC facility, the past few years have been very challenging.
"Due to issues associated with the Olympic pool, we have had to restrict patron access to the far side of the pool, on the southern side and this has affected its usage."
Those proceedings were ultimately settled shortly before trial, which means council is now able to commence works to replace the troublesome Olympic pool.
Cr Humphries was delighted with the outcome and pleased that council is now in a position to move forward with works for the new Olympic pool.
"It will be wonderful," she said.
"Of course we are disappointed that we need to close this part of the MAAC for a period of time but we are looking forward to the long-term benefits its reconstruction will create.
"It means that in time, the MAAC will be able to offer a world-class, Olympic FINA-standard competition pool that can be used by the local community, the surrounding region and visiting tourists."
Council is now in the process of decommissioning the Olympic pool and commencing the procurement process for the reconstruction before undertaking community consultation.
"We are commencing the procurement process in relation to the new design for the pool and hope to be in a position to commence construction of the new Olympic pool sooner rather than later," Mr Rodgers said.
"The construction time for the new Olympic pool will depend on this design so at the present time, council is unable to confirm when the new Olympic pool will be completed, however, I can confirm that the Olympic pool will not be in operation for the 2020/2021 swim season."
Cr Humphries said the decommissioning will be a steady process, to ensure nothing is wasted that could potentially be reused during the reconstruction.
"There are also a lot of environmental factors we need to consider and neighbours we need to be mindful of," she said.
"It's not just a matter of smashing it up and dragging it away. We also don't want to smash stuff up if we can use it again."
The decommissioning of the pool began at an opportune time, when the MAAC was shut due to COVID-19 restrictions. During that time, work has also been underway to re-cement and re-tile the outside hot pools, which remain closed to the public.
The gym and wellness centre pool have since reopened to the public, with a booking system in operation to use the indoor artesian pool. There's currently a 20-person limit to swim in the artesian pool, at a cost of $5 for a 50-minute session.
Once more COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the remaining operations of the MAAC will be reopened including the program pool, outside artesian pools, waterslide, children's hydroplay and the Moree Artesian Wellness Centre.
It is hoped that these parts of the facility will all remain open while reconstruction works for the Olympic pool take place.
"During the construction period, our top priority is to ensure that locals and visitors can continue to use the other facilities at the MAAC to their full extent," Cr Humphries said.
"We understand that this closure will inconvenience our regular pool users and sincerely apologise for this unavoidable disruption.
"We will work with local user groups of the Olympic pool to help identify alternative arrangements during the reconstruction period, but it is anticipated that the impact on Moree tourism will be minimal.
"We just ask everyone to be patient; I know they've already been patient, but we have to get this right this time. We want a sustainable product."
Cr Humphries is hopeful that construction will be underway by the end of the year.