For Shelley Taylor-Smith, Beatty Park is not just a leisure centre.

It is a training ground, a playground, the place she shared her first kiss as she sat in the grandstand as a teenager, where she screamed with delight during rock concerts in the 1970s and with exhaustion after a 25km training day.

In the past 50 years, the North Perth complex has welcomed royalty, big-name music acts and countless West Australians who have splashed about in the pools.

Now the complex has undergone a $17 million makeover.

Ms Taylor-Smith, a seven-time world champion marathon swimmer, will join past and present WA swimmers, historians, locals and City of Vincent staff today to mark the 50th anniversary, launch a new book and open the upgraded 50m outdoor pool, which has been expanded to 10 lanes.

Ms Taylor-Smith said her favourite swimming memories involved Beatty Park. "I won my first gold medal here at 11 years of age," she said. "But it's not just about the medals, it's the lifelong friends and the social aspect of it.

"My first boyfriend was at this pool. (Swimmer) Neil Brooks taught me to wolf-whistle here. And all the concerts they had here, it was fantastic."

Olympian Belinda Foley (nee Woosley) recalled how the opening of Beatty Park meant swimmers no longer had to suffer jellyfish and dead blowfish at the Crawley Baths in the Swan River.

Built in 1962 for the Empire Games, Beatty Park was Perth's first Olympic-sized pool. It hosted the Miss West Coast beauty pageants, was visited by the Queen Mother in 1966 and hosted concerts by The Jackson 5, the Bee Gees and the Eagles. Up-and-coming swimmers such as Brianna Throssell, 16, from the Perth City Swimming Club, are making new memories at the centre. Throssell, who will compete in the World Short Course Championships in Turkey next month, was looking forward to making the outdoor pool her second home again after a hiatus during the renovations.

"I've been training here for two years - it's a great pool," she said.

The indoor pool has been retiled, new children's water features added, the 30m outdoor pool and learners' outdoor pool upgraded and a geothermal heating system installed. In the book Beatty Park: Celebrating the First 50 Years, former staff members and athletes share their favourite photos and stories.

A free open day will be held on Sunday to mark the anniversary.

The West Australian

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