Enhancing the Bloem skyline
Located within the Franklin Nature Reserve, Naval Hill is an iconic destination for locals and visitors to the Mangaung metropolitan municipality.
Between December last year and June, it attracted about 120 000 visitors.
No wonder that Kaba Kabagambe, the head of department for planning at Mangaung Municipality, says they are committed to revitalising the area to become truly world class.
"The success of every city depends on two things. There are the objective and tangible benefits and then there are the seductive elements that make people passionate about the city.
"Naval Hill is one of only two game reserves in the world surrounded by a city. By redeveloping this wonderful feature, we aim to drive the key pillars of recreation, tourism, education and economic development," he says.
The growth in tourist numbers has been attributed to the erection of the tallest statue of Nelson Mandela in the world, which was unveiled by President Jacob Zuma in December last year.
The statue strategically faces the Waaihoek Wesleyan Church, the birthplace of the ANC.
"We are developing viewing points around the Hill that are comfortable, user-friendly and safe.
"There is a commitment to build using aesthetically attractive materials so that the developments will have a natural feel and will not compete with what is already in the area," says Kabagambe.
Due to its location, Naval Hill has always been a prime spot for star-gazing and comes with an undisturbed bird's eye view of Bloemfontein.
For astronomy lovers, this experience will be enhanced when the city, in partnership with the Free State Department of Tourism and the University of the Free State (UFS), launches the first digital planetarium in sub-Saharan Africa.
"Opening next month, the digital planetarium will be the second one in Africa (the other being in Egypt) and will feature amazing technical features to make the experience as entertaining and informative as possible to visitors.
"The dome screen will be on top of the audience with outstanding visual and audio effects," he says.
Visitors of the planetarium will be immersed in a 3D experience of the universe as well as the recreation of the macro- and micro-cosmos and a variety of other environments.
This will enable the audience to "fly through" the universe, visit planets, explore the secrets of the oceans and even organs of the human body.
The planetarium itself is a versatile venue that could be used for concerts, state-of-the-art presentations, theatre productions as well as meetings, conferences and exhibitions.
Once completed, the auditorium will seat 80 adults or 120 children.
Speaking on behalf of the university, which has secured numerous sponsorships for the sustainability of the planetarium, Professor Nicky Morgan, vice-rector of operations at UFS, said that the planetarium will be the first component of a proposed Centre for Earth and Space at the site, which will be a multi-purpose facility to promote science communication and preservation, as well as the arts.
The hill will also be complemented by a restaurant by December, while design work for a cable car, reminiscent of one found on Table Mountain will begin in January next year.
By so doing, the city will be ensuring that the younger adventure-driven generation is also catered for.
Benefits for all
The second phase of the development will also include the construction of a destination resort to complement the planetarium. This includes a state of the art eco-park recreational area as well as a boutique hotel.
"Naval Hill has been dormant for far too long. With our rejuvenation plans well on track, we are excited about the potential this centrally located destination has to offer our citizens and tourists," says Kabagambe.
Contents and photographs for this page were supplied and signed off by Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality