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New Westminster pool plan produces petition

The Hyack Swim Club doesn’t want the Royal City to miss out on a chance of being a “shining gem” in the province when it builds its new aquatic centre.
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 doesn’t want the Royal City to miss out on a chance of being a “shining gem” in the province when it builds its new aquatic centre.

More than a dozen supporters of the Hyack Swim Club attended Monday’s council meeting to urge the city to build a 10-lane pool that meets the needs of a growing city and allows the city to host large swim competitions. The current plan for the new aquatics centre and community centre includes a 50-metre, eight-lane pool tank, a leisure pool, hot pools, gathering spaces, steam and sauna, and a fitness centre.

“We all like the Olympics. We all like Canadian swimmers on the stands, but they are not going to do it swimming in a bathtub,” said New West resident Paul McNamara. “But there’s more to this – there’s economics. New Westminster could be a leader and the swimming capital of the Lower Mainland, if not B.C., bringing with it revenue for business and revenue to the pool.”

The city plans to build a new $100-million facility to replace the aging Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre.

McNamara started an online petition asking that the city not make a decision on the pool until after October’s civic election and to seek more public input. As of May 9, nearly 700 people had signed the petition at ipetititons.com.

McNamara appealed to the city to build a new pool that meets the needs of families, community members and competitive swimmers for many years to come.

“We aren’t saying that we don’t want any recreational facilities alongside of this. In fact, I think they can go hand-in-hand,” he said. “What I’m saying is if we are going to spend $100-million on a pool and we can’t actually host a race here, it’s a waste of money. It just does not make sense. … New Westminster right now really has the ability to be the shining gem of sports in swimming in B.C., if not Western Canada.”

According to McNamara, the Hyack Swim Club currently pays $100,000 a year to the city for access to the pool. The club is willing to pay for a ninth lane in the new pool if the city funds a tenth lane.

Mark Bottrill, head coach of the swim club, said city council had a vision of building a pool that would meet the needs of a growing community when it constructed Canada Games Pool.

“They saw that, for the next 50 years, they had to do it right, so they built a grand facility to serve the needs of a growing New Westminster and the surrounding areas, a facility that hosted the national championships as well as swim lessons and a fitness swimming community. A place that people came to work out in, take their kids to,” he said. “A new eight-lane, 50-metre pool, regardless of how shiny, is already over capacity. It is, after all, replacing an eight-lane pool that is already over capacity.”

Dean Gibson, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said staff will be presenting feedback from the recent consultation process to the Mayor’s Task Force on the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre later this month, and will the report to council and make recommendations on how to proceed.

Gibson said the city will be taking action to try and get grants from senior governments to assist with the project.

“There is a category for which recreation amenities, such as a pool project, would be eligible. The city is preparing to submit an application for that,” he said of federal infrastructure funding. “The intake period is not actually open yet, but is expected to open over the course of this year, and the city will be pursuing that with great rigour.”

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