The City of Red Deer might be keeping its head above water when it comes to a new aquatics facility.
In October, the swim centre was bumped out of Red Deer’s proposed 10-year capital plan, due to a slow economy and stagnant city growth.
But Monday, as about 35 people peacefully protested outside City Hall for a new indoor pool, city council passed a resolution to explore funding, what’s to be included in the project and its location.
The city plans to look into funding from the federal and provincial governments. The city will also continue working with the province to ensure continued access to the Michener Aquatic Centre pool, a provincial facility.
This isn’t “great news,” but it’s “positive news,” said Roy van der Sluis, president of the Red Deer Masters Swim Club, who was at the rally.
“It’s long overdue,” he said about the need for an aquatics facility.
“They (the city) believe it’s the next big project to do, but they see the struggle in these tough times,” he said after attending the budget talks Monday afternoon.
“I’m disappointed that they haven’t been able to reduce the capital budget and make room for a pool and get the pool approved, but this still allows us to keep fighting,” said van der Sluis.
Red Deer’s Candice Berger is a grandmother who takes her grandson swimming four times a week.
The Eastview resident sees first-hand how the skill is going to stick with 11-year-old Bennett Hopp for life.
Berger was at Monday’s rally, where adults and children swimmers, and new aquatics centre advocates, spoke up.
Their message for city council was clear: the city needs a 50-metre indoor pool.
Berger sees the importance of having a competition-sized pool in the city and came out to support Red Deer’s swimming community.
“I think it’s a wonderful institution for the kids to belong to something like this. It keeps them busy, and he excels at it. It’s just a beneficial thing for all of the kids,” Berger said.
“It’s something he’ll always have,” the grandmother said of Hopp’s involvement with the Catalina Swim Club.
Catalina Swim Club president Lisa Hildebrandt, who was also at the rally, said conditions at the Michener pool are so poor, “swim clubs from other towns and cities do not want to attend Red Deer swim meets.
“Children endure scraped backs, shoulders and heads as they perform flip turns,” she said.
She said the club has about 100 swimmers, and it cannot expand any further without a bigger facility.
“City council continues to prolong this necessity year after year. It’s been promised to us year after year,” Hildebrandt said.