Yellowknife city council will vote on a design for the new aquatic centre later this month, but city councillors are still debating the details.
City council reviewed a report, which recommended a 25-metre, eight lane pool, with a leisure pool, but no big water slide. The report cautioned against the slide due to a number of concerns, including cost.
The leisure pool is a bit warmer and would be for “swimming lessons and where stuff like family swims would happen,” according to Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty.
Sheila Bassi-Kellett, city administrator with the City of Yellowknife said the proposed design for the new aquatic centre provided a “tremendous opportunity” to invest in high-level, more energy efficient equipment to warm the pool.
But several city councillors remained unconvinced by the plans outlined in the report, with the two biggest sticking points being the slide and the location.
Council was split on the report’s recommendation that the city doesn’t go with a larger, full amusement park style waterside.
The slide would’ve cost $1.4 million extra, because of the extra building costs as well installation of extra pumps and hiring staff to monitor the slide, according to the report. Instead, a smaller slide, aimed at pre-teens, was proposed. The slide would be built into the leisure pool.
As well as cost, there concerns Yellowknife residents would lose interest in a big slide.
“They’re very, very popular at the outset, and then use dwindles as the years go on,” said Grant White, director of community services with the City of Yellowknife.
Cynthia Mufandaedza called on council to revisit the slide issue, and noted a large slide was residents’ most-requested pool feature during community consultations. She said she has driven with her kids to use the slide in Hay River and High Level, Alberta.
Julian Morse asked for more information about how frequently other communities’ slides are used.
“Heck, I’m going to go down that slide if we have one,” Morse said.
“This is going to be a big legacy facility, if we’re going to spend the money, let’s get it right.”
The new aquatic centre is set to be built in the old location by the where the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool currently is located.
Niels Konge said city council should seriously consider a “mega building”, conjoined with the field house and the multiplex on Kam Lake Road. This, he said, would help with saving money on staffing, by concentrating the staff
Bassi-Kellett said the city’s aquatic centre advisory committee had originally looked at a number of different sites, including attaching a new pool to the current Ruth Inch Memorial Pool and building an aquatic centre in the space between the multiplex and fieldhouse. That location had been ruled after consulting with engineers.
The advisory committee had previously moved to take the fieldhouse location off the table.
Bassi-Kellett said they could reconsider that decision if city council wished, but there were a number of engineering concerns with building a “mega building.”
The sewer line that serves the building would have to be removed to allow for a basin for the pool to be dug, costing $1 million. The district heating system covers several buildings in the area, including the fire hall, the fieldhouse and the multiplex, and would need to be replaced if another large facility, like the aquatic centre, was added in the area. Adding another facility to the area would fuel an existing deficit in the number of parking spaces.
Bassi-Kellett added a “mega building” could increase staff costs by increasing the square footage for all three buildings.
Opinion was divided on the location issue. Councillor Shauna Morgan supported the report’s recommendation of building a new aquatic centre at the location of the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool. Councillor Steve Payne spoke in favour of Konge’s proposal.
“This is the public’s money, we have to be responsible for the money that we’re spending,” said Councillor Payne. “Most of the people I’ve talked to said they would love to see it up near the fieldhouse, it just makes sense.”
City council will be voting on whether to approve the aquatic centre design that includes a 25-metre, eight lane pool, with a leisure pool, but no big water slide on January 25. City administration will be presenting new information about a larger slide on that date.
“This is just one milestone, there’s still many to come this year, including the final step in the project which would be a referendum, with residents voting on whether to proceed or not,” Alty said in an interview with MyTrueNorthNow.com.