Jim Baxter, president of the Haney Neptunes, says the local swim clubs have been hit hard by losing their home pool for two years. (THE NEWS files)

UPDATED: Maple Ridge’s swim clubs ‘decimated’ by pool closure

City working to ensure that all recreation facilities will meet needs for 2020 BC Summer Games.

The Haney Neptunes and Seahorses can’t wait for the re-opening of the renovated Maple Ridge Leisure Centre, announced for Feb. 3.

At least, what’s left of the local swim clubs.

Prior to the pool closure, the Seahorses had 130 swimmers.

Almost two years later, the club is now down to 15, said club president Karen Firth.

Members used to swim 11 months a year, six days a week.

The Neptunes, a summer club, formerly had more than 100 athletes, and now have fewer than 60, said president Jim Baxter.

The Neptunes competitive swimming team remains intact, but the water polo and synchronized swimming programs could not be sustained through the closure.

Those programs will be rebuilt from scratch, he said.

The Seahorses believe the renovations made a too-small pool even worse as a competition pool.

As recreation pools have widened, there is less deck space.

Firth isn’t confident the club will be able to hold a meet there, she said.

She doubts it will have enough deck space to be able to accommodate the BC Summer Games.

“The city has been working closely with the local and provincial BC Summer Games team to ensure that all city recreation facilities will meet the needs for the competitions at the end of July 2020,” said Fred Armstrong, with the City of Maple Ridge.

He added that the city toured the facility in October with Swim BC representatives.

“The city will be working closely with Swim BC once the facility is reopened to ensure that the needs of the athletes are fully addressed for the three days of competition,” Armstrong said of the 2020 Games.

Baxter is still pleased to be getting the pool back.

He gave city hall credit for helping his club find pool time in Port Coquitlam, so it didn’t have to completely shut down for the two years.

Firth’s virtually year-round club had a difficult time during the closure.

In the first year, members swam at pools in five neighbouring communities.

But the delay in opening made it impossible to plan.

Pool time had already been allocated.

Since September, Firth said, kids have been getting up at 4:20 a.m. to drive to pools in Surrey to train at 5:30 a.m. – the only time they could get.

The kids eat breakfast and do homework in their vehicles.

Firth thinks it will take at least two years to build the club back up.

“Families who have gone to other clubs will now have connections and relationships.”

The Maple Ridge facility closed on March 26, 2018.

On Tuesday, the city reported the construction phase is nearing completion.

The final phases will include commissioning – the testing of all systems, to ensure the new areas of the building perform as intended.

That will begin on Jan. 3 and will be followed by training for staff, including lifeguards and slide attendants.

The renovated facility has a new layout and procedures that staff will be trained on to ensure safe operation, said the city.

The renos were originally scheduled to take one year, and cost $9 million.

However, in early July, the city announced it had found corroded support pillars that needed replacing, causing delays and the cost of the project to rise to an estimated $12.4 million.

The city needs another pool, say the swim clubs.

Once their clubs are built back up, the renovated pool will be too small to meet demand, Baxter said.

He said a new competition pool would allow not only the clubs to expand, but all of the city’s aquatic programs.


 

@NeilCorbett18
ncorbett@mapleridgenews.com

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