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New West pool plan sinks potential for big meets

The Hyack Swim Club is floating the idea of adding more lanes to the city’s new pool – and is prepared to sink some cash into the project.
Canada Games Pool
The City of New Westminster is laying off 601 employees because of the COVID-19 crisis. Many community facilities, including Canada Games Pool, are closed.

The Hyack Swim Club is floating the idea of adding more lanes to the city’s new pool – and is prepared to sink some cash into the project.

For the past two years, the City of New Westminster has been consulting and planning for the replacement of the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre. It’s proposed that the future aquatic facility include a 50-metre, eight-lane pool tank, but the swim club is concerned that size precludes the city from hosting regional, provincial or national competitions as those types of competitions require 10 lanes.

“We have in the past been able to host the provincial championships, as well as the western championships. We will not ever get a chance to bid on those meets with the current design. The city acknowledges this. Their point is the budget is what it is and this is what they are going forward with,” said Mark Bottrill, the club’s director of swimming. “I would think that inside a $100-million facility we could find the space to put in a 10-lane pool, which is the modern requirement for any meet pool.”

According to Bottrill, the club pays the city more than $100,000 a year for pool time and is prepared to pay an additional $100,000 annually in pool rental costs to help fund a ninth lane – with the hope the city will then pay for tenth lane. The Hyack Swim Club is a non-profit that leases pool space from the city.

“We have offered to help build the extra lanes,” he said. “At the last meeting we had, I said, ‘How much are you short?’ It was mentioned it was $5 million. If that is in fact true, over the lifespan of 50 years, it seems like it’s pretty much pennies in the bucket.”

The city’s director of parks and recreation could not be reached for comment on the cost of additional lanes before the Record’s deadline.

Bottrill said it’s estimated that families spend $2,000 for every swimmer attending a meet, which benefits the local economy as they’re spending money at local businesses such as restaurants, hotels, gas stations and grocery stores.

Aside from not being able to host major competitions, the swim club is concerned it could have even less time and space in the new pool as more and more people will likely flock to the facility.

“Currently, already, any kid that comes out of the lesson programs at Canada Games Pool, we can’t provide a spot for them within the swim club. There’s just not enough room,” Bottrill said. “We have waiting lists galore for people who want to join.”

Bottrill said the club wants to collaborate with the city on the project.

“The reality is, modern facilities in cities are 10 lanes,” he said. “This is your pool, this is the only (indoor pool) you’ve got in New West.”

In addition to the eight-lane tank pool, the new facility will contain a leisure pool, hot pools, gathering spaces, steam and sauna, and a fitness centre. The pool depth will allow it to accommodate one-metre and three-metre springboards.

Mayor Jonathan Cote said the city has received a lot of different feedback about the renewed aquatic centre and community centre facility.

“Unfortunately, all of the different ideas couldn’t be included in the project,” he said. “One thing we did hear loud and clear about the aquatic facility was there was a strong desire to maintain its focus on fitness and to maintain the 50-metre pool. A lot of community pools have actually moved down to the 25-metre pools, which can substantially reduce the cost of the project.”

Cote said the city also heard from the Hyack Swim Club about its use of the facility for training and its desire to see enhancements to meet modern competition standards. While that input was considered, he said a modern competition pool isn’t part of the proposed scope of the facility.

“It’s balancing the benefits that would come from investing in a more modern competition pool versus some of the other community demands. If price was no object, I think we would love to be able to be able to be able to accommodate all the aspirations in the community, but ultimately we do have to come down to a scope that fits into a financial plan that is sustainable,” he said. “At the end of the day, we are going to have to make some choices.”

Cote said the city is in the late stages of public engagement about project and will likely make a decision on the final scope of the project in June, which will be followed by detailed design.

“Some of the consultants did indicate if we didn’t have that fitness and competitive swimming component it wouldn’t have been unreasonable for the city to consider a 25-metre pool, which we have not gone in that direction,” he said. “We feel very comfortable from a residential user perspective that what is being proposed will definitely meet current and future needs, but we do fully recognize that there are other aspirations in the community in terms of enhancements of the facility that aren’t fully being met with the proposed scope.”

In December, council supported in principle an 114,295-square-foot building that would include aquatics, fitness and community spaces. The city, which is hoping to begin construction in 2020, said preliminary estimates indicate the project could cost $100 million.

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