After months of planning, deliberation and public consultation, Yellowknife city councillors have settled on details they’d like to see in the proposed new aquatic centre – and residents can look forward to a ride down a big slide.
While city staff recommended forgoing the option of an “amusement park-style” water slide earlier this month, councillors on Monday unanimously voted to include the eight-metre-tall amenity – one of the most-requested additions from residents.
Councillor Robin Williams, who proposed the amendment, said a pool with a large slide will make Yellowknife an attractive location for tourists to visit and families to live.
Not including the slide, he said, could “torpedo” the project.
“I think it’s clear that the public really wants a water slide and if we’re going to do it, we might as well do it right,” Councillor Steve Payne added.
“I think that the people of Yellowknife deserve it.”
Councillor Julian Morse said while he initially had concerns about the costs and potential waning interest in the slide, those seemed to be “surmountable” issues.
“I think every kid that rips down that slide over the next couple of decades is really going to be thanking us every time they do it and I think they’re going to have a blast,” he said.
The lone holdout was Mayor Rebecca Alty, who felt staffing requirements could mean the slide won’t be able to stay open all the time.
Robert Allen of contractors MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects said every large water slide featured in their past designs had required two staff to operate: one at the top to prevent crowding and one at the bottom to make sure swimmers cleared the area.
City administration also worried the novelty of a large slide, estimated to cost $1.4 million, could wear off over time.
On Monday, however, a presentation to councillors indicated that large slides in Hay River, Inuvik, Fort Smith, Iqaluit and Whitehorse are all still “as popular as ever.”
The presentation noted that while some slides required two staff, others – like the one in Iqaluit, which uses a “red light, green light” system – only need one guard.
The proposed design for the aquatic centre also includes a splash area with a small slide, intended for children aged 12 and younger.
Councillors approve 25-metre pool
Yellowknife councillors also opted to go with a 25-metre, eight-lane pool as recommended by administration, rather than a 52-metre one.
Only Niels Konge fought for the larger option, arguing that a 25-metre pool will be over capacity in five years.
He pointed out that 58 percent of respondents in the latest community consultation preferred the 52-metre option.
According to a report on the proposed aquatic centre, a 25-metre pool is expected to exceed forecast demand by seven percent while a 52-metre pool would exceed that demand by 49 percent.
The smaller pool is estimated to cost around $53 million to build, while the price tag for a larger pool was set at around $63 million.
Yellowknife’s Polar Bear Swim Club said in a statement it was happy with the decisions made by council.
“We are pleased that the city is moving forward with a new pool/facility. This will benefit our club and the city’s needs for the coming years, as it will give the club the opportunities to expand and grow as per the vision of our current and past head coaches,” club president Remy Leclerc stated.
While council’s vote means the aquatic centre has passed a major hurdle, Yellowknifers are still a long way from swimming in a shiny new pool.
Residents will have to vote on whether the city can borrow the money needed for the project before it can break ground.
A referendum on that decision is set for October.
If approved, the new aquatic centre is expected to be completed by the winter of 2023.