Aquatics group thrilled pool location approved

A Red Deer aquatics group is hailing city council’s decision on Monday to approve the location of a 50-metre swimming pool and multi-use aquatic complex.

A Red Deer aquatics group is hailing city council’s decision on Monday to approve the location of a 50-metre swimming pool and multi-use aquatic complex.

Jack Cuthbertson, chairman of the Central Alberta Aquatic Centre group, said he was delighted that council approved a consultant’s report that said the Recreation Centre site was the best option for building, versus going ahead with undeveloped green space somewhere else in the city.

“It was the best site from a monetary and accessibility point of view,” said Cuthbertson outside council chambers. “We heard a lot from people who said ‘put it downtown’.”

Ted Watson, one of the consultants asked to conduct a comparative site analysis, said the Recreation Centre site would be $28 million cheaper to build. The Recreation Centre is part of the redevelopment of the Red Deer Rotary Recreation Park and South Site Study plan

A greenfield site would cost $111.9 million compared with $83.7 million at the Rotary Recreation Park site. Servicing costs are a lot higher for the undeveloped green space.

Plus, on the more qualitative side, it was a great fit because it would be closer for people to walk to and could support new housing in the historic downtown.

Both the Recreation Centre and undeveloped green space proposed a new 25-metre diving tank, 54-metre competition pool and outdoor 25-metre leisure/lap pool. The consultant’s report says that the existing Recreation Centre will require only limited renovations to the ground floor so it can adapt to the new addition. But with a green field site, everything would be built and as a result, at a significantly higher cost.

The outdoor 50-metre pool at the Recreation Centre is said to be at the age of its lifespan, which is why the new outdoor 25-metre pool and leisure area was suggested.

“This would be a wonderful addition to our downtown,” said Mayor Morris Flewwelling.

Cuthbertson’s group — which includes everyone from kayakers and water polo users to synchronized swimmers and competitive swimmers — is vying to see the facility started in 2013, the City of Red Deer’s centennial.

The users group recently launched a website (www.centralalbertaaquaticcentre.ca), a twitter site and Facebook page to gain more awareness to its cause. Fundraising will be a part of the group’s mandate, but not yet.

Red Deer is the only city of its size in Alberta not to have a centre offering a wide variety of water sports and activities for competitive and recreational use, says the group.

“We don’t see the city picking up the total bill by any means,” said Cuthbertson. “This is a federal, provincial, municipal, local enterprise and if it goes all right . . . we could see the city picking up half the cost. This would be a pretty good bargain in my mind.”

The city has indicated the earliest it could help get this project going is 2021, at the earliest, due to financial constraints.

“We would love it to be 2013,” said Councillor Lynne Mulder. “This does show at least it’s on our radar and that we’re looking at a site, but we have not altered when we are building it.”

Cuthbertson isn’t dismayed by the city’s timelines and instead is focusing on the good news of having a site chosen. There’s no room for the 177,540-square-foot building on a potential site in Riverlands, plus Red Deer College wouldn’t work.

Councillor Chris Stephan was the sole opponent of the site at the Recreation Centre because he was concerned about the huge cost.

He said the city should continue to talk with Red Deer College officials, but was told by city staff that the college wasn’t interested.

Watson, of the Toronto firm of Maclennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects, and Tom Tittemore of Marshall Tittemore Architects in Edmonton, will continue with the project of developing a conceptual model.

Both the comparative analysis and the conceptual model phase are part of this $200,000 project approved by council.

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