The closing of one set of doors could mean the opening of another for Jim Baxter, president of the Haney Neptunes Aquatic Club.
This November, the City of Maple Ridge closes the leisure centre for a year-long $7-million renovation, meaning the Neptunes will have to swim and train at pools in Port Coquitlam or Langley while the work is under way.
So why not minimize that inconvenience and build a third pool in Maple Ridge, an outdoor pool that can be built at fraction of the time and money of an indoor facility?
Baxter made that suggestion in a letter to Maple Ridge city recently.
“I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of years,” he said.
For him, an outdoor pool isn’t necessarily second best to an indoor pool.
Actually, competitive swimming is better outside.
“As far as the Neptunes are concerned, an outdoor pool would be ideal. It would be preferred for us.”
Swimmers like being outside. It gets hot, noisy and humid indoors, he points out. The water would be heated so the swim clubs could use an outdoor pool eight months a year, and in the process free up the six-lane training pool in the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre for the general public.
Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Langley, Port Coquitlam and Burnaby all have busy outdoor pools, he said. A new one is about to open in Aldergrove.
Maple Ridge already has an outdoor pool in Hammond but it’s far too small for competitive training, he added.
“If they put this in the right location, we’d be able to host the regionals,” said Baxter.
That would attract 600 competitors and their families. If the pool was located in a park setting, families could camp nearby. If that pool was to be located in a scenic area with vistas of Mount Baker and the Fraser River it could be a regional draw for the swimming community.
And in 2020, Maple Ridge hosts the B.C. Summer Games. Plans are to have another city supply the swim venues during those games, but an outdoor pool could mean Maple Ridge could host its own swimming events.
Baxter said Maple Ridge has grown to the point where it needs another pool.
“We can’t grow much larger.”
Besides, it will take at least five years for the city to get shovels in the ground to build a $70-million wellness and aquatic centre, as envisioned in the city infrastructure upgrade plan, and that’s assuming taxpayers approve tax increases to pay for it.
Baxter is convinced of his cause and told council about a company, Myrtha Pools, that makes movable, stainless steel pools. That company in turn contacted the city and told it about the second-hand 10-lane, 25-metre pool that’s up for sale in Windsor, Ont. That pool was used only once, for the 2016 FINA World Championships, and was installed in a hockey arena.
The cost for that could be a few million dollars, including an adjoining building containing change rooms and offices adding to that, but that’s still a fraction of the cost of an indoor pool.
At a recent meeting, council asked staff to look into that option. Coun. Kiersten Duncan, who’s a lifeguard in Port Coquitlam, initially opposed that, because she thought it wasn’t possible to build within a few months.
But she supports at least considering the idea.
“This proposal is clearly something we should look into. It’s a great club (the Neptunes). We clearly want to be supporting them.”