The Blue Baths was opened in 1932 in a two-storeyed Spanish Mission style building within the Rotorua Government Gardens. The Baths represented a change in social attitude - it was the first time in NZ men and women could swim together in a public facility rather than segregated bathing. Locals, out-of-towners and overseas visitors flocked to enjoy the thermal waters. Following a downturn in popularity from the mid-1950s onwards, the Baths was closed in 1982 and lay idle for many years until being reopened in 1999 after being modernised. (See Te Ara: Thermal pools and spas)
The Blue Baths was designed by the Public Works Department's architect John Thomas Mair who was appointed from 1925 to 1941. His other building projects included courthouses, post offices, police stations and office buildings (see Te Ara: Dictionary of New Zealand Biography & images on DigitalNZ). On 25 June 1992, the Blue Baths was registered as Historic Place Category 1 under the Historic Places Act 1980. For a description of the building's architectural style and materials used, see Heritage New Zealand.
The Blue Baths was used for a number of social and sporting events, including Christmas carnivals and swimming championships. Local schools frequently used the facilities and many people took swimming and diving lessons.
Closed in 1982, the building was restored and reopened on 21 December 1999. The original Juvenile Pool was fully restored and two soak pools added. The Juvenile Pool is usually around 30°C whilst the two hot soak pools vary between 37°C and 42°C. The Adult pool was ‘shallowed’ and turned into a large event space - the Lido Lounge - covered by a 5m ceiling. The Foyer and upstairs “Tearoom” (now Social Room) were retained for social events. A gallery in the former adult male changing rooms, which was on the east side, has a historical display of the building's past. For an outline of current operations, see the Blue Baths website, which also includes a historical timeline.