City makes big aquatic centre pitch to residents on Tuesday

Last modified: October 8, 2021 at 2:29pm

The plan to build a new aquatic centre in Yellowknife will be set out in a live webcast on Tuesday, October 12 as city staff seek residents’ permission to borrow some of the money needed.

A new pool for Yellowknife is now projected to cost $68 million before tax and open in July 2024, the city says, with Clark Builders lined up to do the work. First, residents must decide whether the city can borrow up to $10 million to help finance it.

A referendum is a legal requirement when the municipality seeks to borrow such a large sum. The referendum on the aquatic centre borrowing is currently scheduled for November 23 and the city is proposing a mail-in ballot.


A simple majority is required for a verdict. Only adult Canadian citizens who have lived in Yellowknife for at least a year are eligible.

From noon on Tuesday, city staff will walk councillors through the project and the referendum. The meeting will be available to view on the city’s website and the city urged residents to tune in.

“The proposed aquatic centre, which has been under way since 2016, is a significant project for our community,” city manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett was quoted as saying in a Friday news release.

“It is important for Yellowknifers to know the status of this project, the next steps, the decision they will be asked to make in a November referendum, and the implications of the decision of that vote.”

More information about the project and Tuesday’s agenda documents can be found on the city’s website.


At the moment, the project envisages an eight-lane, 25-metre lap pool with an “amusement park-type water slide.” Other listed components of the proposed aquatic centre include a “leisure pool with beach entry,” a lazy river, a splash pad, one-metre and three-metre diving boards, a steam room, and a therapy pool.

The city anticipates a 1.27-percent tax increase will be needed to cover the annual operating costs, which – once revenue is factored in – are expected to cost the municipality around $1.8 million per year.

The cost of building the aquatic centre is put at just under $72 million once a contingency fund of $3.4 million and $600,000 in other consultancy fees are included.

A proposed location for the new aquatic centre, from a concept design report published in November 2020.

The city already has a $12.9-million federal grant – one that cannot be transferred to any other project and must be spent by 2024 – to put toward that cost. Staff say the rest of the money will come from a range of other federal programs and two funds the city has kept for investment in large facilities, plus borrowing up to $10 million if allowed to do so by residents.


Clark Builders came in with the best of three bids, city staff state in a briefing note for councillors, adding the municipality has until the end of January 2022 to accept Clark’s bid at the quoted cost.

With the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool at the end of its stated lifespan, the city says the new centre will become “a key piece of infrastructure” capable of handling growing demand in a way the old pool could not.

Council approval is a requirement for the referendum to go ahead. Councillors will also be asked to approve entering into a contract with Clark Builders, subject to voter approval in the referendum being received.

If councillors reject even holding a referendum – which is not thought likely – the city says money will need to be found to address accessibility at the existing Ruth Inch pool and “ensure that the facility remains operational for the foreseeable future.”