page contents Vote Dylan Bressey, candidate for Grande Prairie City Council. Election 2017. page contents

Indoor Aquatics and The Leisure Centre

Two big decisions our next Council will have to make are “what do we do with The Leisure Centre?” and “do we pursue another indoor aquatics facility?”

THE SHORT VERSION

Many see a need for another indoor pool. If elected, I will support the exploration of options for more indoor aquatics. However, planning needs to be in partnership with the County or other municipal neighbours. I doubt I would support any new facility that is not attached to regional funding.

Wrapped up in this conversation is the fate of the Leisure Centre. Due to the money involved and its attachment to the Composite High School, what to do with this facility is a very tough decision. Regardless, it has sat empty for too long. Our next Council needs to act to set a clear direction for this building.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

THE LONG VERSION

Reasons For Another Indoor Pool

I like the idea of opening a second indoor pool because:

  • Our community has identified increased indoor aquatic facilities as a top recreational priority (see page 68 of the Regional Recreational Master Plan).
  • I’ve talked to people on the north end of town who do not access the Eastlink Centre due to transportation barriers- having a facility on the north would help them.
  • The Eastlink Centre is loud- a quieter facility for lessons and programs would be useful.
  • Community groups have expressed desire for a smaller facility which can support private rentals.

Reasons Against Another Indoor Pool

I’m also nervous about the idea of opening a second indoor pool because:

  • In 2015, re-opening the Leisure Centre was given a cost of $14,000,000. I am sure that price tag has gone up. I doubt other indoor aquatics options will be any cheaper.
  • This isn’t just a capital purchase. A new pool would likely need ongoing operational subsidies.
  • We are having troubles staffing and managing our existing aquatics facility and we are adding an outdoor pool in 2018. I am nervous about our ability to staff and manage a third pool.

Options for Indoor Aquatics

It is important to talk about “a new indoor aquatics facility,” not just “re-opening the Leisure Centre pool.” If we do pursue another pool, maybe fixing the Leisure Centre is the way to go. But it also might make sense to demolish the existing pool and build an all new one on the same site. It also might make sense to do something different with the Leisure Centre and build a pool elsewhere. If you want more information, I would love to share more about these options for another pool and for the Leisure Centre.

Where I Stand on Increased Indoor Aquatics

If on Council, I would support a feasibility study and the exploration of options for increased aquatics. But I do not know if I would support the actual building of a second indoor pool. For me, there are just too many unknowns to take a firm position right now. What would a current cost estimate to open the pool look like? What sort of operational subsidies would the pool need in our current economy? How will opening the outdoor pool in 2018 impact perceived aquatic needs in the community? And would we see partnership from the regional municipalities? Without this information, I do not know what to do with the pool.

That last question is especially important. The City can’t afford to deliver regional services on its own, and a new pool would certainly get use from people living in the County, Sexsmith, and other municipalities. I doubt I would support a new aquatics facility that had the City providing all funding. However, if other municipalities partnered with us to take on a large part of the capital and operational costs, I would become likely to support a new pool. I might also support funding a pool located outside but close to the City if it received most of its funding from other municipalities.

Now, let’s talk about the Leisure Centre.

Some Facts About the Leisure Centre

As it is, the Leisure Centre is a Jekyll and Hyde affair. On one side of the facility is a well-used indoor turf field in great condition. On the other side is an abandoned pool.

The pool closed in 2011 for much needed maintenance. It soon became evident that a major overhaul was needed not just on the pool, but also on the surrounding building. $4,000,000 was set aside to do this. However, in 2015, Council received an updated estimate on the cost of re-opening the pool: $14,000,000. Unwilling to take on this cost, Council decided to move the money allocated for this project to fund the outdoor Bear Creek Pool. We currently have no money set aside to fix the Leisure Centre.

A further complication: The Leisure Centre shares a wall with the Composite High School. The school building is also in need of serious repair or demolition. The school board has not decided what it will do with this building, which makes Leisure Centre planning difficult. However, with the provincial announcement of a new Composite High School building, I expect the schoolboard will be able to decide on the old building soon.

This year, Council did allocate half a million dollars to the Leisure Centre for operations and upgrades to functional parts of the building. However, there is no money allocated or current plans to fix or remove the pool area.

We Need to Make a Leisure Centre Decision

The fate of the Leisure Centre is complicated. Work is needed to assess all our options. Without that work being done, I don’t know what to do with it. However, here is something I can strongly support: our next Council needs to act on the Leisure Centre.

Empty facilities still cost money to maintain, and they don’t get any cheaper to fix as they age. The Leisure Centre also sits on prime real-estate which is going to waste. High school students, soccer players, and Avondale residents currently shouldn’t have an abandoned facility as a neighbour.

The Leisure Centre should not be sitting there with no plans for its future. If on Council, I will push for us to do a great job of asking for your insights on the Leisure Centre. I will support us dedicating resources to find options for the facility. I will then push hard for Council to give firm direction on this facility’s future. Whatever it is, a decision on the fate of the Leisure Centre needs to get made. It has sat empty for too long. Let’s change that.

Your Thoughts

I’d love to hear from you: do you want to see a second pool? What do you think we should do with the Leisure Centre? Comment on this post, give me a call or email, or post this on Facebook and tag me.

-Dylan