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City ponders future for aging pool

New facility about to open just over city border in Edmonds area of Burnaby

As the City of New Westminster ponders how to meet the recreational needs of a growing community, its next-door neighbour is getting set to open a new multi-million dollar facility.

The City of Burnaby expects to open its new Edmonds Community Centre by the end of April. Located on Edmonds Street in south Burnaby, the facility includes a six-lane, 25-metre pool, a leisure pool, warm swim and therapy lanes, a lazy river with two channels, double water slides, a twin gymnasium, multipurpose spaces and other recreation and community spaces.

Coun. Jonathan Cote, chair of the city's parks and recreation committee, said that whenever a new, modern facility opens in a neighbouring municipality there is bound to be an impact, but Canada Games Pool is a "unique facility" that continues to draw people from New Westminster and other communities. He said the facility's attendance peaked in the mid 1990s.

"Every time a neighbouring city puts in a modern facility, it has an impact on Canada Games Pool," he said. "I would anticipate the opening of the new pool in Burnaby would have an impact too."

Having said that, Cote said Canada Games Pool has one of the highest usage rates of the city's facilities and is widely supported by the citizens.

Dean Gibson, the city's director of parks, culture and recreation, said the opening of the new pool in Burnaby could have a modest impact on Canada Games Pool, as people pop over the border to check out the new facility. He said the two facilities are different on a number of fronts.

Gibson pointed out that the Edmonds pool would have 25-metre swim lanes, while Canada Games Pool has 50-m swim lanes that appeal to user groups such as swim clubs and early bird swimmers who like to have the long distance swims.

"What happens is, like anything . you begin to develop a camaraderie with your fellow swimmers," he said. "You feel comfortable swimming with friends. That is one of the things we see."

Gibson added that Canada Games Pool prides itself on offering a high level of level of customer services and a top-class instructional program for swimmers. He said people come from outside of New Westminster for the pool's instructional programs, and others come after work before heading to their homes outside the city.

While some New Westminster residents may head to Edmonds to check out the new facility when it opens, it's likely some south Burnaby residents have been enjoying recreational opportunities at Canada Games Pool rather than going to other facilities in Burnaby.

"We've known that we do have cross border shopping," said Dave Ellenwood, the City of Burnaby's director of parks, recreation and cultural services

Ellenwood said the City of Burnaby did an aquatic services review in 2005 and found it was short of pool space, especially in this area of Burnaby. He said the facility is a "perfect fit" in the Edmonds area and could attract folks from New Westminster.

"It fluctuates according to who has the newest facility, what works on their commute," Ellenwood said. "We expect we will get a fair number of New Westminster people using this facility."

According to Ellenwood, construction costs are in the $36 million range and the total project cost will be about $45 million, when design, engineering and other soft costs are included in the cost. He said the City of Burnaby has equipment replacement and land acquisition reserves, which it's been able to draw from to build the facility.

"We are in a pretty enviable position," he said. "We have healthy reserves."

Cote believes New Westminster needs to start planning now to meet the community's future recreational needs, rather than waiting until the last minute.

He recalled how the city scrambled to deal with the Moody Park outdoor pool situation when the former Kiwanis Pool was deemed to be past the point of repair.

"The pool was failing," he said. "Not a single dollar had been set aside as to what would happen next."

As part of its 2013 budget deliberations, council will discuss the idea of establishing a civic facility replacement reserve, which would fund the eventual replacement/renewal of the city's aging inventory.

According to Cote, the proposal is to put $500,000 into reserves annually and let the funds accumulate over time.

"That alone is not going to be enough to provide enough funds for renewal of the pool," he said. "That is a good start."

Staff will be reporting back to council about other options for funding renewal or replacement of Canada Games Pool.

"There will be a whole list of ideas," Cote said. "At this point, no decisions have been made about anything."

Cote believes the city should decide whether it wants to upgrade the existing facilty or build a new facility, so it knows how much money will be needed to fund the project.

In 2010, city council received a consultant's report examining options for the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre, with options ranging from $22 to $55 million.

The options ranged from doing a minimal upgrade to the facility to extend its life for five to 10 years to building a brand new facility that included a new 10-lane, 52-metre pool, a separate leisure pool, a 20,000 square foot fitness centre, new change rooms, multi-purpose rooms, food concession and support spaces.

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