The City of Red Deer’s new capital budget will be released Thursday — and the long-awaited aquatic centre will not be included.
“We’re very disappointed that there’s no room in the budget (for the project) for the next 10 years,” said Roy van der Sluis, a member of the Central Alberta Aquatics Committee.
“Everybody agrees that a new aquatics centre is absolutely needed, but the city and council cannot find a way of making it happen.”
Van der Sluis understands times are tough, but he said federal government grants are now being offered to spark economic recovery from the pandemic.
“I believe an opportunity is being squandered” by not actively seeking these out.
The COVID-19 threat is creating all sorts of new problems for water sports. Van der Sluis said Red Deer-area swimmers can’t compete in “virtual” competitions, which require individuals to swim timed laps instead of competing against other swimmers in teams.
Existing area pools don’t conform to competition standards, noted Van der Sluis, who explained they are either too short or too shallow, especially for artistic (formerly synchronized) swimming.
“COVID-19 has actually made it worse for us. It’s exacerbated the need for a new pool,” said van der Sluis.
City manager Allan Seabrooke admitted these pandemic-stricken, economically recessed times are tough, and said the days of Red Deerians seeing “shiny, sexy new projects” in annual capital budget are necessarily over — for now.
But he maintains city staffers will be keeping an eye out for whatever grant opportunities are available, so that a future council can discuss these opportunities as they arise.
“The aquatics centre is still on our radar,” he stressed.
City staff have already been in touch with the Central Alberta Aquatics Committee to get members’ feedback on a new pool design.
This layout, as well as the project’s anticipated cost and potential land options, are expected to go to city council for approval before the end of the year.
Seabrooke said having a ready design and designated land for the project will ensure the city can move on a new aquatics centre once government money is secured.
“The city will look for potential grant opportunities — we’ve said that all along.”
But he noted all grants will be matching, which means the city would have to cover at least a third of the project’s cost.
Van der Sluis approves of the proposed design, which contains two pools — a competition-sized 50-metre pool and a 25-metre warming pool.
He believes this will allow all kinds of competitions, from swimming to water polo, and would meet local needs.
The aquatics committee intends to keep pressing to get the new pool into the budget before a decade has elapsed, he said.
“We’re on a mission to find a way to make it happen,” said van der Sluis.