An ambitious vision for the future of Mount Panorama has come to life thanks to an ex-Bathurst boy who now has his own architecture practice in Brisbane.
Glanmire farmer Jim Inwood and architect Blair McFarland have combined to create detailed plans for a four-level facility that would be the “crowning glory” on Brock’s Skyline on top of the city’s tourist drawcard.
Mr Inwood featured in a story in the Western Advocate in 2015 (subsequently seen by Mr McFarland) where he said the time to develop a car display gallery and community facility on top of the Mount had come.
“Being a young, soon-to-be architect, I thought it was a fantastic proposal and wanted to lend my support to the project to hopefully secure funding for the next stage,” Mr McFarland said.
“As a teen, I remember once looking up to a derelict Castrol Tower and wondering what could be done to bring it up to the standard of the then recently completed pit complex and soon-to-be completed resort.
“I strongly believed that a site as iconic as Mount Panorama deserved a facility that was equally impressive.
“This thought has only grown stronger over the past 15 years. With this in mind, I reached out to Jim, which is where this three-and-a-half year journey started for me.”
Working with Mr Inwood, Mr McFarland has come up with plans for a building at Brock’s Skyline that they say would showcase the Bathurst region, attract tourists and provide a new way to watch the Great Race.
Level one of the building would house a vehicle display gallery - which they say would be the facility’s anchor, hosting national and international vehicle displays – as well as the 1200-seat “Great Hall”, to host events from vehicle manufacturer launches to conventions.
Though vehicles are already on display in the National Motor Racing Museum at the base of Mount Panorama, they say their facility would display a broader range of vehicles, rather than only ones that had been involved in motor sport.
Level two would have a continuation of the vehicle display gallery and a public viewing deck, likened to the public viewing galleries at Parliament in Canberra.
Levels one and two would be integrated into the hillside.
Level three, the main level for the facility, would house the entrances to the vehicle display gallery and Great Hall (via escalators), a central plaza covered by a canopy with columns designed to mimic the gum trees found on top of the mountain and a café.
An undercover carpark would be built into the hillside, to maintain public green space,
Level three would also have a National Indigenous Interpretive Centre, including offices, collaborative spaces, galleries and a theatre, and a Bathurst Regional Council Information Centre where council could promote the region to people who might not otherwise stop at the primary site in town.
Level four would house the Wahluu Restaurant, designed for outdoor alfresco dining with a view, and catering for indoor dining when the weather does not permit, and a media centre.
“The media facility would serve the large media contingent during events, with a press box and commentary facilities in the glass Skydeck perched high above the track providing uninterrupted views of the circuit,” Mr McFarland said.
“This facility could be utilised by the university [Charles Sturt University] and hired by manufacturers and car clubs for commercial shoots.”
And the price? The men say their proposed facility will cost about $60 million – a fraction, Mr Inwood says, of the more than $2 billion being spent on stadiums in Sydney.
“I firmly believe that Mount Panorama is as outstanding an icon as any in Australia,” he said.
He says he is not looking to create money out of nothing, but instead wants to convince the NSW Government to expand its spending priorities.
“We’re not saying you are spending too much in Sydney, we’re saying you are not spending enough on regional areas,” he said.
Between the proceeds from the electricity poles and wires privatisation and the Snowy Hydro windfall from the Federal Government – which the NSW Government has earmarked for spending in rural NSW – Mr Inwood says the money is there.
“If this is not done now, how many decades before it is done?” he asked.
And what about second circuit?
WORK on the second circuit at Mount Panorama should not prevent a new facility being built at the top of the original circuit, according to the men pushing the facility.
Glanmire farmer Jim Inwood and ex-Bathurst boy Blair McFarland, who is now an architect in Brisbane, say a $60 million, four-level facility at Brock’s Skyline can complement the new track and its associated infrastructure.
Mr Inwood said the second track needs to be completed, “giving us new businesses for the city and local employment”.
“In addition, the second track will see motorbike races in Bathurst again,” he said.
“This, however, only caters for tourists at the races.
“We need attractions that can give us daily patronage. For this we need a building on top of Mount Panorama – an imposing, world-class, outstanding building.
“In fact, an icon in itself.”
Mr Inwood and Mr McFarland say their proposed building would be used all year round – for everything from car launches and functions in the Great Hall to visits from tourists wanting to see the National Indigenous Interpretive Centre, eat at the cafe or enjoy the views from the top of the facility.
Their vision is for the building to be owned by Bathurst Regional Council.
Mr McFarland said they were making their plans public because they hoped to get the Bathurst community behind them.
“We really hope the people of Bathurst get on board and put pressure on the State Government to spend money west of Sydney,” he said.
He said their proposed facility would serve Bathurst for at least the next 50 years and would be a source of income for the city.
“We are saying this is not only sustainable, but profitable,” he said.