On Monday night, Council made a number of decisions in regards to aquatics facilities:
1. To not proceed with renovations to the Leisure Centre pool.
2. To install a moveable floor in the Eastlink Centre.
The previous week, the Community Living committee (which I am a member of) voted to have administration bring back some costing on options for a large splash park to replace the Bear Creek pool (options may include a wading pool, slides, an enhanced spray park, and a covered cookhouse.)
I supported these initiatives and here's why:
Leisure Centre pool
I have not supported this reno from the start. In a previous post I argued that the cost of renovating old pools is extremely expensive and often not cost-effective. I also mentioned that once the building was inspected further we'd likely see the costs escalate even more. This turned out to be the case.
Once walls were opened up, it was found that there was a greater scope of work needed. Renovation cost estimates now exceed $14 million. To put that in context, administration noted that the cost of building a new same-sized facility would be $13 million.
So why didn't you build a new facility?
My opposition to the project was also based on the business case for the project. With the Eastlink Centre currently at 47% capacity, it was recommended that it would not be cost-effective to open another aquatics facility until it reached 80%. As such, a new pool would require an operating subsidy of $1.1 million per year, which translates into a much smaller cost-recovery ratio than the Eastlink Centre.
We are now going to wait until the regional recreation master plan comes out in the Spring which will advise us on the greatest rec needs for the region over the next several years.
The Moveable Floor
*queue the laser lights and techno music*
Sounds space age, don't it?
Before investing in a new pool, I think we need to ensure that the Eastlink Centre is operating at maximum efficiency.
While the Eastlink centre is at 47% capacity overall, there are some areas where we are at much higher capacity and some where we are lower. One area at greater capacity is our aquatics programming like fitness classes and swimming lessons. One of the facility's constraints is that there is limited shallow water for these activities.
On the flipside, an underutilized area is the deep 50m pool.
Enter Moveable Floor. It is becoming common practice for pools to put in moveable floors to allow for flexibility in different types of use. By adding a moveable floor to the 50m pool, we can offer toddler programs in a couple inches of water, elementary swimming lessons in 4 feet, water aerobics at 6 feet, and competition swimming at full depth.
By making the pool more accessible to more people more often, we can increase the level of service we offer. This will help the facility run more efficiently and will alleviate some of the need for a new pool in the near future.
There has been tremendous community support to have an outdoor aquatics facility that families can escape to in hot weather. As I've mentioned before, I believe that an enhanced splash park, such as the one in Spirit River that everyone raves about, would fill a desired niche in the community. It is also much more cost effective than having a full depth swimming pool.
I look forward to seeing what the costs are for various components of such a park. There will be report brought to committee in October.
So how do these decisions shake out financially?
There was $6 million allocated towards the Leisure Centre pool reno over the last few years. $5 million was slated to be borrowed.
Council made the decision to take $4 million out of the project.
$1 million will go towards the moveable floor.
We've slated up to $3 million for the splash park (for context...the one in Spirit River cost $2.5 million)
$2 million will remain allocated to the Leisure Centre until the recreational master plan is ready at which time we can decide on a course of action.
The $5 million will not be borrowed.
There will also be savings for the Leisure Centre operational costs that would have started in 2017 (approx. $1.1 million subsidy/year).
Overall, there are no additional funds being spent, just reallocated. There will be savings in the borrowing and operational costs.
I look forward to getting your input on what should be included the splash park once we have an idea of what the different components cost.