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Video: "Very special day" as New West dives into new indoor pool

99-year-old world record holder and three-month-old baby among first to take a dip in New Westminster’s new swimming pool

New West residents – including a three-month-old enjoying his first swim and a 99-year-old world record holder – took the plunge at the opening of New Westminster’s new swimming pool.

The aquatic facilities in təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre officially opened at 4 p.m. on May 14 – and the leisure pool was soon filled with folks of all ages.

Longtime New West resident Alysia Ker attended the pool’s opening with her husband and their three-month-old son Hudson. While he loves bathtime, it was Hudson’s first time in a swimming pool.

“This is a very special day with the new pool. My grandpa, Tom Baker, was the first person to go down the slide at the old Canada Games Pool,” said Ker, the granddaughter of the former mayor. “I have a lot of memories at the old pool, and now we're going to make a lot of memories here at the new pool.”

Ker eventually plans to register Hudson for swimming lessons, but on opening day she enjoyed some family time in a shallow portion of the leisure pool.

“It's nice and warm,” she said. “And nice and shallow for infants and babies.”

Alysia Ker, right, was thrilled to attend the opening of New West's new pool with her husband and baby. Theresa McManus/The Record

Ker attended the recent opening of the community centre in təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre, and has already been attending programs in the facility.

“It is fantastic,” she said. “There's so many options and programs.”

At Tuesday’s First Swim event, swimmers formed a line around the deck and plunged into the pool following a 3-2-1 countdown by Mayor Patrick Johnstone.

The guest of honour for the inaugural swim was Betty Brussel, a 99-year-old New Westminster resident.

“It's just nice that she was here able to share it with us,” Johnstone said. “She holds three world records in her age class for swimming.”

Brussel, who turns 100 this summer, has broken 11 swimming records so far this year. When competing in a swim meet in Victoria in January, she broke world records (in the 100 to 104 age group) in the 400-metre freestyle, the 50-metre breaststroke and the 50-metre backstroke.

Johnstone said it’s exciting to see the facility open and to see people in the water for the first time.

"Today is a milestone for our community, and I’m thrilled that the pools at təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre are fully open,” he said. “I know council and staff are all excited to finally welcome the entire community inside this bright, expansive, and accessible facility that we have been anticipating for so long.”

The new aquatic centre features an eight-lane, 50-metre lap pool with one-metre and three-metre springboards and a five-metre diving platform, a fully-accessible leisure pool featuring spray elements, a lazy river that can be used for play and rehabilitation, family and adult hot tubs, sauna, and steam room.

Dean Gibson, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said it’s been heartwarming to see the way community members have supported the facility.

“I think it's a great day for New Westminster and for our community who's been so patient for the last several years as we been without an indoor facility,” he told the Record. “I look at the folks that are here – I met a family with their three-month-old infant; this is their first swim. I think that 20 years from now, this will be their home place, and a place that they'll enjoy with their friends It's just a wonderful day.”

The city has now held openings of the community centre, the aquatics centre and the public art at təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre. Next up will be the official grand opening on Saturday, June. 1.

“The entire community is invited to come down and celebrate the facility,” Gibson said. “All of the spaces will be open and available to the public on that day. We'll have lots of special activities going on in the plazas and the outdoor spaces, as well as some of the formal dignitaries and speeches and ribbon cutting. But really, it's just going to be a day of celebration for the entire community.”