Concept images of an aquatic centre. (Advocate file photo).

Red Deer’s pool proponents urge city to consider long-overlooked swimmers

A competition-sized pool is needed more than another rink: supporters

Red Deer swimmers are continuing to pay the price for “faulty” city planning, according to the Central Alberta Aquatics Centre Committee.

Chair Brian Gallaway is “dismayed” that city staff are recommending removing the aquatic centre from the 10-year capital plan because of a reduction in provincial contributions.

“We believe the need for a new multi-use aquatic facility is urgent, and should be prioritized ahead of the expansion of the Dawe Centre rink,” stated a release issued by the aquatics committee this week.

If the aging Kinex Arena fails, Red Deer would return to the level of ice available in 2016, due to the recent addition of the rink at Red Deer College, says the group.

But if swimmers were to lose the aging Michener Centre facility, they would have less pool space for training than they had in the 1970s.

“Losing an ice surface may mean a slight space crunch for ice sports, whereas if aquatics were to lose the Michener Centre, all of our aquatic clubs would be forced to fold,” states the committee.

Gallaway and the group’s other members feel that prioritizing the rink over the pool “is clearly the wrong choice.”

The City of Red Deer explained that the decision to remove about $1 billion of capital projects planned for over the next decade was made in recognition of Alberta’s stalled economy and fewer provincial infrastructure dollars.

But during the aquatics committee’s first meeting since the city’s 2020 proposed capital budget was released, members highlighted the times the city has overlooked the needs of local swimmers.

They were ignored during Canada Winter Games planning, when hockey players got a new Olympic-size rink at Red Deer College, and a rebuilt NHL-size rink at Servus Arena — “while swimmers received a bus ticket to Calgary.”

They also received no consideration when an NHL-size rink was built into the Collicutt Centre.

“The aquatics community received a paddling pool unsuitable for even the most basic training,” leaving Red Deer with “the worst competitive aquatics facilities of any mid-sized city in Western Canada.”

Noting that a new aquatic centre was ranked the No. 1 public priority in the City of Red Deer’s amenities study, the committee hopes administration will reconsider its “faulty reasoning” for prioritizing the second Dawe rink project.

The committee sent letters to city council, and has heard that various swim clubs will be sending letters of their own.

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