The City of Yellowknife wrapped up public engagement sessions on its proposed new aquatic centre this week.
During sessions on Monday and Tuesday at the Multiplex and Wednesday at Somba K’e Civic Plaza, residents could read signs, speak to city staff, and provide feedback on the proposed project.
Grant White, the city’s director of community services, said about 25 people attended the three sessions. An online survey is available until October 7.
Residents are primarily being asked to indicate whether they prefer a 25-metre or 50-metre lane pool, alongside questions about other amenities.
“We’re looking at a full gamut of input opportunities for the public,” White told Cabin Radio, adding the city plans to meet with user groups.
Among those who attended Wednesday’s session was Karen LeGresley Hamre, who has lived in Yellowknife for 37 years. She said she’s been a frequent user of the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool, which is a 25-metre facility.
The city says Ruth Inch is reaching the end of its useful life and must be replaced. However, City Hall would need to borrow so much money to fund a new pool that the law dictates a public plebiscite on whether to go ahead must eventually be held.
“I love swimming, I use the pool a lot,” said LeGresley Hamre. “I think swimming is really an important skill for every northerner to have. I do want to see kids being able to get swimming lessons.”
LeGresley Hamre said she attended the engagement session because she wanted to learn if the city has enough lifeguards and instructors to make a larger pool worthwhile, and find out what will happen to the existing aquatic centre. She said the city told her it is working on staffing, though Covid-19 had delayed some plans, and the existing pool is set to be converted for another purpose such as an arts and culture centre.
As for the city’s questions, LeGresley Hamre said she’s not in favour of a 50-metre pool. She raised concerns about the costs and potential challenges of other proposed amenities, too.
The city held an engagement session on the new aquatic centre at the Samba K’e Civic Plaza on Wednesday. Emily Blake/Cabin Radio
“I’ve been down to the fancy pool in Edmonton and it’s lots of fun to have those big slides and waves and things like that, but not every town needs to have those and I do not think Yellowknife needs stuff like that,” she said.
“We need a place where kids can learn to swim, there’s basic recreation possibilities, and let’s be able to afford it no matter what our population is. I don’t believe our population is on a major increase.”
According to the city’s numbers, between 2017 and 2019, an average of 825 people were waitlisted for programs at Ruth Inch each year. In a 2018 household survey, 41 percent of the 425 respondents said they weren’t satisfied with the current pool’s amenities.
The city estimates a new aquatic centre with a 25-metre lane pool will cost $38.2 million to construct, while a 50-metre pool will cost $49.8 million. The city has secured $12.9 million in funding from the federal government for the project.
The city said Taylor Architecture Group is set to submit concepts and recommendations for a new aquatic centre, in part based on public feedback, in October.
City council is expected to make a decision on that recommendation in November. If that involves going ahead with construction of a new pool, a plebiscite is set to follow.
Correction: September 25, 14:09 MT. This article initially referred to the city’s director of community services as Greg White. His name is in fact Grant White.