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HomeMiscellanyPool politics making a splash at North Van city council

Pool politics making a splash at North Van city council

Bob Mackin

Summer’s here, everybody into the pool. 

Literally. 

A heat wave sent people of all ages around Metro Vancouver to their local community centres and outdoor pools on the first weekend of the summer of 2017. Pools have been on the minds of politicians all over the region. 

Today’s pool at Harry Jerome (NV Rec)

Burnaby is pondering a major remake of the C.G. Brown Memorial Pool at Burnaby Lake Sports Complex. Vancouver just released its VanSplash strategy, which envisions a harbour deck, an outdoor leisure pool at Killarney community centre, an outdoor pool beside the Fraser River, and a new aquatic centre at Connaught Park. The land occupied by the existing aquatic centre between Sunset Beach and the Burrard Bridge is sought by tower developers. 

In North Vancouver District on June 24, the new $53.5 million Delbrook Community Recreation Centre, on the site of the old William Griffin Community Centre, opened. It includes a six-lane, 25 metre pool plus 1 m and 3 m diving boards. 

Monday night at North Vancouver City Hall, the future of the Harry Jerome Recreation Centre is on the agenda. The North Shore Aquatics Society is worried that bureaucrats want city councillors to move too fast to approve a pool too small. 

Staff recommend Mayor Darrell Mussatto and council spend $2.2 million for designs and feasibility studies for a new $130 million recreation centre with a 25 metre pool. Final project approval would be in June 2018 — four months before the next civic election.

Staff considered five options for the new community centre, but rejected a second arena ($15 million plus $200,000-a-year to operate), an eight-sheet curling rink ($19 million to build), and a 50 m pool ($11 mllion plus $1 million to operate annually).

“The recommended aquatics facility delivers a much improved leisure experience, and will be the largest aquatics facility on the North Shore,” said the June 21 report by Barbara Pearce, the strategic initiatives and services director. “Curling, a 50 m pool and second arena have not been recommended in this report due to the significant increased capital and operating costs, and limited need/demand.”

A city hall-contracted poll by Modus found 81% of respondents supported rebuilding on the same site at Lonsdale and West 23rd, 75% said swimming was their primary use and 43% wanted a 50 m pool. 

From North Shore Aquatic Association presentation

NSAS, an umbrella for North and West Vancouver’s swim clubs, has collected 4,500 petition signatures and commissioned a business case for a 50 metre pool. It would require fundraising and taxpayer grants. While British Columbians await the end of uncertainty in Victoria, NSAS can’t get the provincial funding commitment needed to unlock matching funds from Ottawa.

NSAS says a 50 m pool is a better long-term investment. Vancouver, University of B.C. and Coquitlam have 50 m pools, which means racing swimmers on the North Shore must commute to compete and train. The NSAS business case said an eight-lane, 50 m pool would cost only $200,000 more per year to operate than a 10-lane, 25 m pool. The difference could be paid for by greater use because of population growth, lease space revenue, more events, admission charges and rental income. 

“Stronger than anticipated population growth, high demand for aquatic facilities, and increasing use of waiting lists for aquatic clubs and swimming lessons means a 50 metre pool is needed to provide adequate capacity and in accordance with the City’s Regional Growth Strategy,” said the NSAS business case.

The pool would benefit swimmers, water polo players, divers and synchornized swimmers, the business case says, “and can generate more revenue by allowing the hosting of events requiring overnight stays and meals in local hotels and restaurants.”