Is Yellowknife treading water on a new pool?
Plans for Yellowknife’s proposed new aquatic centre will be voted on by city councillors later this month but, after years of discussion, not all of them agree on the details.
In November, architects presented detailed conceptual pool designs in a report to councillors. The report stated city staff hope to build the new pool east of the current Ruth Inch Memorial Pool, on the former location of a mini putt.
On Monday, councillors were set to decide two things: whether the new centre should include a 25-metre or 52-metre lane pool, and whether it should have an amusement park-style slide.
City administration recommended the 25-metre pool option, saying it will meet the city’s future needs. Staff also recommended forgoing the large slide – estimated to cost $1.4 million – over concerns that use of the slide could wane over time.
The slide may need two staff when in operation, City Hall told councillors, citing territorial health policy and the slide manufacturer’s recommendations.
However, several councillors spoke out in support of a slide. They argued administration had not provided enough rationale for their recommendation.
Cynthia Mufandaedza noted a large slide was residents’ most-requested additional amenity during community consultations. She said she and other residents have travelled to Hay River or High Level, Alberta, to use large water slides there.
Julian Morse also expressed support for a large slide, suggesting a fundraiser or sponsorship for the amenity. He said if the city is going to invest money in a big legacy facility like a new aquatic centre, it needs to “do it right.”
“Heck, I’m going to go down that slide if we have one,” Morse said, adding he would like to hear from other communities that have large slides before making a decision.
Meanwhile, Niels Konge questioned the proposed location for the aquatic centre, saying he would prefer for it to be part of a mega-facility with the multiplex and fieldhouse. He argued this would reduce staffing and heating costs, adding it would be a “disservice to citizens” not to consider the site.
“I believe this with all my heart,” he said.
Robin Williams supported Konge’s proposal but expressed some concern that it could delay the project. Steve Payne said a location next to the multiplex and fieldhouse seemed “like a common-sense place” to build a new pool.
“This is the public’s money, we have to be responsible for the money that we’re spending,” Payne said.
City administrator Sheila Bassi-Kellett said the city’s aquatic centre advisory committee had originally looked at seven different sites, including the space between the multiplex and fieldhouse. Following discussion with consulting engineers, however, they had ruled out that location.
Bassi-Kellett said they could reconsider but there were a number of concerns. For example, she said, the fieldhouse and multiplex were designed as standalone buildings, while a parking assessment found there was already a deficit of up to 78 spaces during peak times, which would increase to 194 if an aquatic centre was added.
Relocating the sewer line in the area would cost an estimated $1 million, while the district heating system doesn’t currently have the capacity for another big facility.
Bassi-Kellett said neither a transportation study nor geotechnical and environmental evaluations for the aquatic centre had considered this location.
Councillors are set to formally vote on the plan for the aquatic centre on January 25.
Under the current timeline for the facility, a public referendum on whether construction on the pool should go ahead is set for October. The referendum is required by law as the city would need to borrow a large sum of money to go ahead.
If the public gives the pool the green light, the centre is expected to be completed by the winter of 2023.