History of Wollondilly Leisure Centre
Early History (Pre 1968)
Looking back to the early days of the Picton township, early swimming enthusiasts enjoyed cooling off in the many creeks and water holes in the surrounding areas. The potholes, mermaids basin, Thirlemre Lakes and as seen in the photo above the original swimming pool below the Viaduct in Picton.
Moving towards the later part of the century, many of our residents can recall making the trip to Mittagong Olympic Pool some 40km to the south. Mittagong pool as we know it today opened in 1959 as a modern Olympic Pool, one of the first in the state to be built in a country area. A great article on Mittagong Pool is available here: Part 1, Part 2
Photo Circa 1960’s
The future site of Picton Swimming Pool. Photo taken from Wood St sometime in the 1960’s. Here you can see the open paddocks and farmland looking towards the service station, Redbank creek and the southern railway line.
1960’s and 70’s
Officially opened on the 11th November 1969, Picton War Memorial Swimming Pool was a 7 lane olympic pool with adjacent learners pool, kiosk and change-rooms. A dominant feature of the pool in those days and for the next 30 years was the wide open grass and picnic areas. No doubt a pleasure to mow and maintain for the operators.
The ‘new’ Pool 1968-69
We came across this photo (and the larger crop above) via former residents of Wood Street. The photo was taken from the front of the family home shortly before they moved overseas in 1969. This places the age of the pool firmly in the 1968 to 1969 season, shortly after the official opening.
Ahead of the Times
Looking at the photos above from the 1960’s, one of the first thoughts that comes to mind is they built the pool in the middle of nowhere. There are few houses and the scenery is dominated by open farmland. Planning foresight begins to fall into place once you zoom out and see the pool is located centrally between the primary townships of, Picton, Tahmoor & Thirlmere.
With Picton High (established in 1958) a short walk away and the growing population, it would not be long before the surrounding farmland was replaced with quarter ache home sites.
Towards the New Millennium
Over the next 30 years little changed at the pool. Small additions such as the infamous water-slide of the late 80’s and early 90’s to numerous playground configurations. Swimmers of the time will recall the ‘hill’ at the deep ens of the pool and other features such as the many BBQ tables, shade areas and even a grass volleyball court at one stage.
Throughout these years the pool was operated on behalf of council by a series of Lessee’s. A seasonal pool open for only half the year management of the centre during this time was largely a family affair with the lessee being a jack of all trades from shop attendant to coach, to lifeguard and off season pool painter. The pool became one of the first in the district to be heated in the late 1990’s. Prior to heating, many early season squad training sessions were swum in 16 to 18 degree water.
Original Entrance 2002
The entry area underwent a few face-lifts over the years, but remained largely unchanged. Swimmers will remember purchasing turnstile tokens at the front counter.
Concept Plans 2001
Leisure Centre concept plans were on display in the entrance during the 2001/02 season
Plant Room & Club House
This building housed the old style gravity fed sand filters and pumps. Behind the blue door was the club room.
The Kiosk, late 1990s
Early in the 1990’s the kiosk was extended to how it appears in this photo.
Picton Swim Club 1990s
Picton Swimming Club members in the late 1990’s.
Swimmers of this generation and later will never know the thrill of diving into an unheated pool at 6am.
The shallow learners pool was situated approximately where the roundabout and drop off area is today.
There was no shortage of shade and seating areas with each decade seen a table or chair pop up at random places.
How the changrooms looked around 2001. Remember the “push button” hot water.
Today’s Leisure Centre
Officially opened in January 2003, the new Wollondilly Community Leisure Centre built on the best features of the old pool and added year round swimming and indoor sports to the mix. Almost every feature of the old site was removed to make way for the new centre and construction was rapid and the site transformed in under 9 months. The old 50m pool shell remains, with the most noticeable upgraded being a new wet deck pool grating and surrounding concourse.
The indoor facilities allowed year round swimming and expansion of all aquatic programs and classes to take place in the heated pools. Wollondilly Basketball moved from the high school to the new 2 court stadium, Group fitness classes commenced and swim lessons became a core activity of the new facility. Over the years the centre has continued to expand and add to the number of programs on offer and today hosts over 250 000 visits each year.
Official Opening 2003
The crowd awaits a swimming demo from former Olympian Shane Gould.
Official Opening 2003
Sydney Kings players were on hand to launch the indoor stadium. The stadium now hosts over 40 hours of sports each week.
Filming for the Today Show
The leisure centre’s swim squad & swimmer Danny were part of a feature episode on the Today Show in filmed in 2009.
Fight Night 2012
The indoor stadium has hosted a great mix of activities over the years, including 2012’s fight night.
State Waterpolo 2004
The centre has hosted the CHS waterpolo championships on several occasions over the year’s.
Guest Coach, Duncan Armstrong
A highlight of the first year was Olympic gold medalists Duncan Armstrong conducting a swim coaching session.
The highly successful ‘Gymtastic’ club make great use of the indoor facilities & have called Picton home since 2007.
A change in ownership in 2006 allowed the centre to open a gymnasium to huge demand from the public.