Taking the plunge at Worthing’s long-awaited pool...

Flashback to Aquarena opening
Flashback to Aquarena opening

WHEN Worthing’s Aquarena swimming pool opened on January 27, 1968, it was declared “a wonderful, great achievement for the borough”.

A spectacular plunge by 70 young Worthing swimmers christened the Brighton Road pool.

At the same time, Alderman Frank Kenton, chairman of the entertainments and baths committee, answered criticisms that had been made – both of the Aquarena’s size and running costs.

He said the 49ft pool was of county and national length, but not of international and Olympic standards.

The cost of providing “such a lavish bath” would have been more than double – something in the region of £1million.

Mr Kenton said: “Some people think this is just for the young people. Of course this is a great asset for young pople, but I know it will be used by others as well.

“A few people who have tried to criticise have misrepresented the truth by referring to the cost of running the baths as £50,000 a year, excluding captial repyament charges. In fact the net annual running cots are £17,000.”

Other critics had said the costs had to be borne by the taxpayers of the time, but this was not so, the alderman stressed. “The Ministry, in granting loan sanction, said it should be repaid over 30 years.”

Worthing had been waiting for a new swimming baths, to replace the 100-year-old Heene Baths, since before the war.

With the opening of the Aquarena, the town could boast of having a thoroughly modern, thoroughly up-to-date swimming baths.

Worthing mayor Peter Ross officially declared the building open after unveiling a commemorative plaque in the entrance foyer.

He said the baths were “a wonderful, great achievement”.

A total of 462 spectators were present for the ceremony, along with special guests Herr Hans Graf, president of Poseidon Swimming Club from Solingen, and a team of swimmers from the German club.

Special exchange visits had been arranged between them and Worthing Swimming Club in the past.

Herr Graf poured a bottle of water from the Solingen baths to mix with the Aquarena water as a token of friendship.

Mr Ross presented him with a plaque of Worthing, then fired a starting pistol to signal the mass dive-in by the youngsters, who swam two widths of the baths.

British Olympic diver Brian Phelps gave a thrilling display using the five-metre fixed board and three-metre spring board.

Then, there were team matches between the Worthing and German clubs to mark the opening.

The Aquarena was designed by John Attenborough and built by Keith Andrews Ltd, using maintenance-free materials, such as ceramic tiling, stainless steel and plastic.

It included warm rooms, which were comparitively new to Britain, at either side of the teach pool, and on the south side of the building was a long sun terrace. There was also a café, entered from Beach House Grounds.