Belfast City Council to splash out on historic baths
£17m revamp of Victorian Templemore pool planned
One of the oldest swimming pools in Belfast is to be transformed into a 21st century leisure centre and spa, it can be revealed.
Templemore Baths opened as one of four public pools across the city in the 1890s at a cost then of £21,660.
It provided washing facilities for a rapidly increasing population moving into east Belfast from the countryside for jobs at the shipyard and other enterprises such as Sirocco and the mills.
Footballer George Best and actor James Ellis were among those who used the pool down the years before Templemore was faced with the axe in the 1980s.
It was saved by campaigners and the main pool reopened to the public.
While it still remains open, almost half of the building is vacant and in various states of disrepair, including the twin entrances, which reflect first and second class admissions, the minor pool and the slipper baths.
Many of these original features will be saved, as well as modern facilities created, under the planned project.
Belfast City Council's strategic policy and resources committee is scheduled to vote on the proposals at its next meeting tomorrow.
The plans include bumping up the council's investment from £8m to £12m and acquiring an adjacent 0.8 acre site where the old Ulster Hospital for Children and Women once stood, a Victorian forerunner to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald.
Among the recommendations that committee members will vote on are the reallocation of £4m from the Avoniel Leisure Centre upgrade to Templemore Baths to result in total budgets of £12m and £8m for Templemore and Avoniel respectively.
Members will also be asked to approve the acquisition of the former hospital site from the Department for Communities at what it termed as a "nominal sum".
The full plan for Templemore includes renovation of the existing building and a new extension to include the existing 23m pool, a new 25m six-lane pool with partial moveable floor, 150-spectator seating capacity, an extensive spa, heritage and interpretation offering, and an 80-station fitness suite.
However, the council is relying on securing funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to complete the project.
The council secured a development grant of £380,000 last October from the HLF to produce a detailed proposal for the future of the building.
The total estimated cost is £17m, with the council hoping the gap from the £12m it is stumping up will be filled with a HLF grant.
Belfast City Council is currently undertaking a £105m upgrade of its leisure centres.
The largest investments are at Andersonstown (£25m) in the west of the city and the rebuilding of the Robinson Centre (£20m) in the east. Olympia Leisure Centre in south Belfast has been upgraded at the cost of £19m, and Brook Activity Centre is getting a £15m cash injection.
The £8m plan for Avoniel includes three covered five-a-side pitches, three outside five-a-side pitches, a 3G football pitch, team changing rooms and indoor facilities including a multi-purpose room and studios.