The president of the Haney Neptunes Aquatic Club said the parents, coaches and swimmers that make up the organization are pleased to be back in the pool.
Jim Baxter said the athletes and their families appreciate having the use of the Hammond Outdoor Pool, which has been open since July 13.
“The kids aren’t sitting in their rooms on their computer,” Baxter said, “They’re out being active.”
But despite the silver lining of being able to play sports during COVID-19 pandemic, the president said the facilities are less than ideal for what has been a thriving club for over 60 years.
“It’s tough,” he said. “We can only get eight swimmers in the pool at a time.”
There are 60 registered swimmers with the Neptunes at the moment, and Baxter said, they have had to turn away other swimmers because they do not have the room for them.
He insisted the city needs a larger outdoor pool.
‘The Hammond pool is 23 metres long and nine metres wide,” he said.
“It’s a mud puddle. It’s pretty small.”
Baxter said he has been pushing the city to get a new outdoor pool for three or four years now.
“We compete in 25 metre pools, but we’re the only community around that doesn’t have a 25 metre outdoor pool,” he said.
“It’s frustrating especially because of this situation.”
The club was without a home pool for two years when the indoor pool at the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre was being renovated.
“Before they closed it, I begged and pleaded with them to build another pool but they wouldn’t do it.”
Cost was an issue for council, who opted not to include an outdoor pool on its list of new recreation facilities for 2018. The pool was estimated set the city of Maple Ridge back between $6 million and $14 million.
The club is hoping the indoor pool might be ready at some point in the late fall/ early winter, Baxter said.
“We’re hoping there’s a break from the COVID-19, and there’s some way we can get back into competition, but at this point I totally understand and support the restrictions in place.”
For some of the athletes who are on an upward trajectory, and improving their skills day-by-day, the lack of competition can be detrimental.
“That’s going to be a challenge for down the road,” Baxter said. “At this point the kids and the athletes are just happy to be training, but like anything, especially when you have some younger kids, that will wear off after a point, and they’ll start to think, ‘what’s the purpose of this?’”
The British Columbia Summer Swimming Association has discussed organizing virtual meets, where athletes would record their times from their home pools and send them in to see how they compare to swimmers their own age across the province.
“We won’t be able to compete in it, however,” Baxter said. “Because we’re not in a regulation pool, which is another drawback.”
On a bright note, he said the club will persevere.
“We’ve put out a lot of good swimmers in our 60 years, and we’ve always down very well on the provincial level.
“We don’t plan on going anywhere.”