Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre begins to take shape ahead of opening in August

Four months from completion, tradespeople on all fours were busy laying batches of tiles for pools in the new Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre. 

The shell of the new facility is impressive, but plenty of work lies ahead to have it open by August.

The $31 million centre will include wellness suites, program rooms and an all-abilities warm water exercise pool, which has an access ramp.

The City of Greater Bendigo said the facility will deliver programs for infants to the elderly and an important part of the build was accessibility. 

Some of the rooms will also have hearing loops, improving the exercise experience for those with impaired hearing, while mobility scooter charging points will be in various locations. 

“We spent a lot of time and effort on that, making sure it’s a really inclusive facility,” Bendigo council’s active and healthy communities manager Lincoln Fitzgerald said.

One of the program rooms contains technology which runs digital classes for individuals when instructors aren’t there.

Mayor Margaret O’Rourke echoed Mr Fitzgerald’s thoughts, and said: “It’s a remarkable centre because the facilities are for everyone and that's the most important thing.”

The facility was expected to open mid-2017, but construction was delayed due to a wet winter in 2016.

The council said it was comfortable setting the opening date of August, with pool pumps and other mechanical infrastructure in place, while car park and other road works are getting underway.

A warm water exercise pool, a learn to swim pool and a movable boom on the 50-metre pool, which enables the pool to be split up into different lengths depending on the user groups, are features of the facility.

The centre has not been without controversy.

Bendigo council held a public naming competition for the new facility in June, eventually voting to call it the Gurri Wanyarra Wellbeing Centre, in recognition of the areas Indigenous heritage.

“Gurri Wanyarra” means Kangaroo Waterhole, which references the creek close to the facility, and was a name submitted by the Dja Dja Wurrung. 

Former state election candidate Jack Lyons claimed the name was “not appropriate”, which sparked a campaign to name the facility after Bendigo Olympic swimmer Faith Leech.

Cr O’Rourke said the council had moved on from the naming of the new centre.

The council estimates 420,000 people will use the facility in its first year of operation, but Cr O’Rourke insisted the city did not feel any pressure to ensure patrons came through the door.

“It’s going to happen organically anyway, there’s no pressure,” she said.

The council believes the facility will create 50 jobs.