The long-term future of the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre is in some doubt, but there is still an appetite on council to fix the 35-year-old facility.
On Thursday, council resolved to keep the leaking pools there running for approximately three to five more years, while the city designs and builds a second aquatic centre, if approved by the public.
Beyond that, the future of the Leisure Centre pools is not clear.
Coun. Gordy Robson has said the city would be wiser to tear the old facility down, and use the site for a conference centre and hotel.
“I don’t think this one is repairable,” he said.
Staff has been directed to prepare a report that provides options for council to consider.
One of those will likely be to continue with the Leisure Centre retrofit at some future date. The repairs would require a one-year closure of the centre and cost approximately $5.8 million.
The contractor that won the bid for the $5.5 million project has already informed council that the price would rise by $300,000 if there was a delay past December.
For Coun. Bob Masse, the refit it’s the obvious choice.
“They may say, ‘go ahead and refurbish it,’ which I think we should do,” said Masse.
“Why blow apart a $40 million facility when you could get it up to standard for $5.5 million?”
His rough estimate is that it would cost $40 million to replace the existing aquatic centre.
In the meeting, Robson lobbied to build a smaller facility elsewhere in the downtown, in partnership with the YMCA. He envisioned a $25 million pool that would best serve seniors and young families, while a new competition pool elsewhere in the city would serve the swim clubs and have more features.
But Coun. Craig Speirs spoke against that plan.
“In my view, this pool’s not going anywhere. It needs to be fixed, needs to be where it is, just because of its place in our community – not just physically, but socially,” said Speirs.
Mayor Nicole Read had a similar sentiment.
“If we build one more pool, and if we repair this pool – and I realize there’s a whole conversation that has to take place around that – that would actually satisfy the needs of the community and the user groups and the public.”
The public’s affinity for the Leisure Centre pool left an impression on her.
“The role of this facility in people’s lives is significant,” said Read. “There are people who use this facility every day, or every second day, and they come here and it is their social activity during the day.”
Kelly Swift, manager of parks and recreation services, said the public should be assured that the existing pool is safe.
“I want to reassure council and the public that it is very safe in operation,” she said.
“Before we thought the pool was safe, and then a pipe fell from the roof,” responded Coun. Corisa Bell.
On Thursday, council gave staff four directions: to stop the tender process for the pool retrofit; to prepare a report on a new aquatic facility, including a concept plan and site; to prepare a report on options for the Leisure Centre; and to start the public process for the addition of parks and recreation community investments outlined in the 2016-2020 Financial Overview Report.
Read clarified that the new pool is on the front burner.
“This is the highest priority for the city, and it will happen very quickly,” said the mayor.
And council will meet this Thursday to plan a process of engaging the public in the new parks and recreation community investments.
“There needs to be community engagement,” said Read. “Residents are already sending examples of things they would like – people are really excited.”