Yellowknife’s politicians will now study in more detail the costs of both a 25-metre and 52-metre pool – and how demands for pool time will be met – before a new facility is built.
Having initially chosen to tentatively proceed with a large and well-equipped new facility, councillors have since begun re-examining that decision to determine whether it would be cost-effective. In particular, annual operating costs would stretch into millions of dollars.
Council could still choose the full 52-metre pool (essentially a 50-metre pool which can be split into two smaller pools), a 25-metre pool the same size as the current Ruth Inch facility, or a refit of the Ruth Inch pool itself.
On Monday, councillors passed a motion – with Rommel Silverio and Niels Konge opposed – to study the 25-metre option in more detail. City Hall will now instruct consultants to draw up detailed costings for both 52-metre and 25-metre facilities, work that’s expected to cost an extra $75,000.
Councillor Shauna Morgan argued for looking at both sizes as Yellowknife is not facing “the best economic times.” A 2018 pre-design plan suggested a 25-metre pool would be around $8 million cheaper than a 52-metre facility, which was estimated to cost around $50 million to build.
That 2018 document suggested $3.2 million would be needed to operate the 52-metre pool each year. Consultants now drawing up more detailed costings will study operational costs in more detail, alongside how a pool of either size would meet the community’s needs.
Konge said extensive community consultation had already demonstrated support for a 52-metre pool. He said a waiting list of 300 people already existed for swimming lessons, adding groups like Special Olympics NWT were already seeking more pool time.
“I’m not going to say there was overwhelmingly support for a 52-metre lap pool, but there certainly was support for that,” Konge said, telling colleagues they must consider not only the cost but also the needs of the community.
He felt the 25-metre option would give councillors a “back door” to scrap a 52-metre pool if it proves too costly to stomach.
“As councillors, we are tasked with not just doing the mundane day-to-day, passing bylaws and those sorts of things. Part of our work is to build a community,” he said.
The third option – retrofitting the existing Ruth Inch Memorial Pool – was not mentioned in the motion passed on Monday.
Plans for a new aquatic centre will eventually go to a referendum where residents will be asked if they approve borrowing the funds to build it. A vote is tentatively set for spring 2021.