The West Australian public is having a whale of a time this week placing design bids on Busselton Jetty’s new Australian Underwater Discovery Centre, set to be built in 2021.
Three alternatives have been put forward for the $30 million structure, with an abstract whale draft swimming ahead of the other two.
Three design options were revealed on Monday — The Cetacean, to pay homage to the humpback whales which migrate through Geographe Bay; The Voyage, to remember the region’s maritime history; and The Rocks, to echo Castle Rock and local caves.
But whatever appears on the surface, underneath the AUDC aims to be the world’s biggest natural marine observatory, complete with a submerged jetty train and underwater dining.
Busselton Jetty chairman Barry House said the AUDC would be “as authentic as it gets”.
Designed by WA business Subcon Blue Solutions, construction should start in the middle of next year, with the centre open by December 2022.
Mr House said at peak times people were turned away from the current observatory because of its 44-person capacity each hour.
“In 2017 we started looking at how to meet visitor demand, and after two feasibility studies and market research, determined that expanding our current unique marine offering was the best way to grow and meet our environmental goals,” he said.
Busselton Jetty managers are aiming for more than 200,000 new visitors in 2023, bringing their total to more than 900,000.
Mr House claimed construction of the centre would create work for 200 people.
“Once operational, thousands of jobs will be created over coming years … returning some $200m in economic benefit to WA,” he said.
Jetty chief executive Lisa Shreeve said the current underwater observatory would become a marine research centre to promote clean oceans and would feature public interaction with world-class researchers.
“Once the outer-shell theme of the AUDC is selected, we can move into what the inside of the AUDC will look like and what each space will achieve, including a small alfresco bar or cafe,” Ms Shreeve said.
“We are also working on a new artificial reef outside the AUDC including artistic sculptures, a replica of the Pericles shipwreck, and potentially putting our old train underwater, which could become an underwater wine-tasting area, as they do in Croatia.”
The public is invited to be part of history and vote on a design at surveymonkey.com/r/ ZZ5ZM6C.