New Westminster suspends construction of new aquatics and community centre

The City of New Westminster isn’t quite ready to take the plunge into a $106.6-million aquatic and community centre project.

The city has announced it’s temporarily suspending construction on the New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre (NWACC) because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on municipal operations. 

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“COVID-19 has created significant disruptions everywhere, and we share the community’s disappointment that we are unable to proceed with the tender and construction phases of the new aquatics and community centre at this time,” Mayor Jonathan Cote said in a press release. “I do want to acknowledge the considerable work that has been completed on this project, including all the community consultation and the completion of the design documents. We have achieved many key milestones and I am confident that we are well-positioned to move forward with construction in the near future.”

A June 1 report to council stated the project’s design had reached the point where it was nearing completion for the purpose of tendering.

“City council has recently decided to temporarily pause further advancement of the NWACC project in consideration of the current COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on municipal operations,” said the report. “As the impacts, particularly as related to finances, will be more fully understood in the coming months, it is expected that the city will be in a better position in the early fall of this year to make a more fully informed decision regarding the ongoing path forward. As a result, the previously planned site preparation works intended for this spring and the issuance of the tender call for facility construction will be delayed to a future date.”

The City of New Westminster has also announced its grant application to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program was unsuccessful.

In June 2018, council supported the construction of an enhanced competition-hosting facility option – but only if the city was successful in obtaining a federal grant of at least $22.4 million. Since then, the city has been pursuing two design options for the facility – a community recreation facility, and an enhanced facility that includes the community features as well as components that allow for swim competitions.

In accordance with council’s prior decisions about supporting the enhanced design only if the city received “significant” grant funding, the final design for the project has focused on the community recreation facility option. 

“This option includes an eight-lane, 50-metre pool with two moveable bulkheads, a movable floor, and spectator seating to maximize flexibility and use of this space,” said a press release from the city. “This will include the ability to host local swim competitions.”

In the spring of 2018, some community members and supporters of the Hyack Swim Club urged the city to build a 10-lane pool, saying it would meet the needs of a growing city and allow the city to host large swim competitions. 

According to a staff report, the project is “trending to be largely on budget” based on the most current cost estimates provided by the project construction manager, but it went on to say it’s anticipated uncertainty related to COVID-19 could impact this during the tender process.

“We are thrilled that the design for the new facility is now complete and ready to move towards construction at the appropriate time,” Dean Gibson, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said in a  news release. “With the intentions to become the first aquatic facility in Canada to achieve the Canadian Green Building Council zero-carbon building standard, this project not only aligns with the city’s climate action objectives but is positioned to support the recreation, sport, health and wellness needs of the community for decades to come.”

According to the staff report, the second phase of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program’s community, culture and recreation program is expected in the fall.

“The NWACC project is being repackaged to be ready for submission for this anticipated program, as well as other potential federal and/or provincial stimulus funding programs,” said the staff report. “The provincial government’s Premier’s COVID-19 Recovery Task Force has begun to work on a plan for recovery, and several federal organizations have suggested local governments be prepared with aligned projects, especially as they relate to climate change and economic development.”

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