A rendering of how Yellowknife's new aquatic centre is expected to look. Image: Supplied by the City of Yellowknife
New graphics showcase what you can expect from Yellowknife’s $71-million aquatic centre – a facility that may prove costlier than expected to run.
Paid for with the help of a $10-million loan and federal cash, the pool is set to open in the fall of 2024. The latest images of the design were shown to city councillors on Monday.
While the overall construction cost is locked in, the city is now grappling with the expected annual running costs – which are higher than once envisaged.
Operating the new aquatic centre is expected to cost up to $4.85 million annually, director of community services Grant White said this week. That’s more than double the present operating cost of the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool, the ageing facility that the aquatic centre will replace.
Even factoring in expected revenues of $720,000 annually, the remainder is higher than the $2.3 million to $2.7 million annual operating cost projected by consultants in 2020.
The new pool’s cost recovery rate is expected to be 15 percent, meaning revenues cover 15 percent of annual expenses. Ruth Inch’s cost recovery rate is currently 26 percent.
In general, city facilities like the pool, fieldhouse and arenas do not come close to recovering their costs, as is the case with virtually any municipality. In the city’s 2023 budget, forecast user fee and grant revenues for city facilities are $2.3 million. Forecast expenditures are $12.3 million, a facility-wide cost recovery rate of just under 19 percent.
“These numbers may be a little different than we saw in the budget,” White said of the new pool’s estimates during a presentation to city councillors on Monday. “We are constantly [looking for] ways to increase our revenues and decrease our expenses.”
For the money, Yellowknifers will receive two 25-metre pools – an eight-lane pool and a three-lane leisure pool – with two water slides, a splash pad and two diving boards.
There will also be two multi-purpose rooms, a canteen, changing rooms, staff offices and bleacher seating, among other facilities.
More: Download full-size renderings of the pool and atrium
Councillor Rob Warburton stressed the importance of securing employees for the new pool, citing issues residents already face at the current pool regarding missed lessons and short-staffing.
“Recruiting for [the pool] has been an ongoing challenge,” White said of Ruth Inch, while outlining a plan to fill a dozen new positions that the new centre will require by late 2024.
Sheila Bassi-Kellett, the city manager, noted that finding lifeguards has been a “national issue.”
“I would be remiss to not encourage that as much as possible, because nothing would be worse than having a brand new shiny pool and we can’t use it,” Warburton said.