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The countdown is on: New West prepares to open new pool next year

Təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre's grand opening planned for March 2024

This time next year – that’s when the new $114-million təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre is set to open in New West.

On Monday, council received an update from staff about the project and directed staff to provide ongoing updates on the progress of the project.

The 10,644-square-metre Təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre will include aquatic facilities (including a leisure pool, lap pool, adult hot pool, family hot pool, diving boards, steam room and sauna); fitness areas; a cycle studio; two gymnasiums; multi-purpose rooms; a lobby where people can gather; a child-care facility for up to 37 children; café food services; and outdoor spaces.

Mayor Patrick Johnstone said the opening is a “good news story” as Təməsew̓txʷ will open within a couple of months of best-laid plans, despite a labour dispute in the concrete industry and the massive supply chain issues that have occurred over the last couple of years.

“I'm not quite counting our chickens yet, but it's so good to know that we're really close to getting it done and it's so close to time on such a complex project,” he said. “I really appreciate that.”

A report to council outlines the phased opening of the new community centre and the closure of Centennial Community Centre.

* First week of November 2023: Last day of programs and services at Centennial Community Centre and a farewell celebration to the facility.

* November: The city will relocate items to storage at Təməsew̓txʷ.

* Early January 2024: The city will take possession of təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre.

* February: A phased start-up of community recreation programs will begin at Təməsew̓txʷ (such as Discovery Playtime, registered drop-in sports and cycle classes, fitness centre and group fitness, arts).

* Family Day weekend – Feb. 18, 2024: Soft opening of programs at the facility, including aquatics, youth and senior services and Hyack Swim Club.

* March 2024: Grand opening.

* April: Facility rental services will begin.

“We all had the chance to tour the facility. It is mind blowing,” said Coun. Tasha Henderson. “I shared some of the images on social media but they do not do the space justice. The level of thought and intention that has gone into the design and the accessibility is just really inspiring. I think we're all excited to be there on opening day.”

According to the report, the closure of Centennial Community Centre in November is “vitally important” to the opening schedule of təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre and to completing Phase 2 of the project in the summer of 2024.

To address the “disruption of programs” between the closure of Centennial Community Centre in November 2023 and the opening of Təməsew̓txʷ in February 2024, city staff are working on plans to add community programs in other facilities and to offer some program sin other spaces in the city.

Coun. Daniel Fontaine noted that Centennial Community Centre is planned to close this November and the new facility is expected to open in February 2024. He questioned if the city is factoring potential delays in the opening into its planning for community programs.

“We've factored in a potential delay already,” said Corrinne Garrett, senior manager of recreation services and facilities. “We've given ourselves six weeks to onboard staff and get them trained and ready for the facility. If the facility’s ready and if our staff are ready …. We have already planned in that potentially, we will actually try to start planning those programs sooner. So we want to over deliver and under promise.”

Phase 1 – which is expected to be complete in January 2024 – includes the new facility and the surrounding parking lot and landscaping works on the East Sixth Avenue and McBride Boulevard sides of the building. A staff report states this will be a “significant milestone” and is effectively the time when the contractor hands over the keys to the city.

Phase 2 – which is targeted for completion in July 2024 – will begin with the closure of Centennial Community Centre. It will include demolition of that building and parking and landscaping works on the side of the site near Cumberland Street and the Royal City Curling Club.

What’s behind the delay?

When the city broke ground on the project in April 2021, it projected that the new aquatic and community centre would open in October 2023.

A report to council states that the “three-month adjustment” is due to extensive ground improvement required that was beyond the original design, as well as industry-wide concrete shortages caused by a labour dispute from a major supplier.

A staff report states that “execution risks” that could impact the scheduled opening dates are continually monitored by the construction and project team, who are working to manage existing issues and mitigate against potential delays.

“Material/product availability and lead time also pose risk to project schedule, with market uncertainties following the pandemic,” said the report. “Early procurement and storage have been implemented whenever possible, and more readily available equivalent alternatives are consider to release schedule pressures.”

Coun. Ruby Campbell said the project has had to overcome a variety of issues, including site constraints, a concrete strike, labour shortages, and the size and scope of the project. She noted it will be double the size of the old Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre.

Henderson said there has been a slight delay to the opening day, but it’s on track for a grand opening next summer despite many challenges, including construction during the pandemic.

“It's a real feat,” she said. “And so I think staff should be really congratulated for keeping us going. And we're all on countdown until we can get in there.”