Red Deer city council took the plunge and chose the Michener North site as the future home of the aquatic centre.
While the multi-use swimming pool project is still not in the city’s 10-year capital plan, Mayor Tara Veer said the choice of site removes uncertainty and helps solidify council’s support for building the competition-sized water sports complex whenever money becomes available.
For years, the big-ticket project was bypassed because there was no chosen site or plan for it and now the city has both, added Veer, who called it “our next major infrastructure build.
“Confirming the location for the future multi-use aquatic centre is an important milestone in bringing the vision for a new aquatics centre to life for our community… selecting Michener North lands offers us the opportunity to re-imagine a future for this significant piece of Red Deer’s history and create a legacy for future generations,” said the mayor.
Most councillors went along with the administrative recommendation and supported the Michener site over the previously suggested site south of the outdoor pool at Rotary Recreation Park — even though the pool complex would cost more to build there.
Constructing the complex on the Michener site is projected to cost $83.7 million in total, compared to $76.4 million at the Rotary Recreation Park site.
With access to 30th Avenue, Michener North lands is expected to become a major park node for community use, city council heard. An administrative report states that major park nodes need indoor facilities to serve the needs of park users. A multi-use aquatic facility — with a competition sized pool, as well as space for synchronized swimming, water polo and diving — will be an anchor on this site along with the historic J.J. Gaetz House that’s also city owned.
“Deciding on the multi-use aquatic facility at this site allows the visioning for the Michener North lands to include this anchor and the community can enrich the vision through consultation,” a report to council stated.
Most councillors favoured the Michener site, despite the additional cost to have the property serviced, because it’s larger and would remove some of the design constraints of putting the larger pool in Rotary Recreation Park.
But councillors Dianne Wyntjes and Buck Buchanan expressed reservations about this site.
Wyntjes noted the Rotary Recreation Park costs $6 million less than the Michener land. This is a “significant cost difference in these economic times,” as the money could be used for other capital projects, she added.
Downtown viability is also a consideration, said Wyntjes. “I also wonder why we are making this decision today? …It’s not in our capital plan yet.”
But all of the other councillors (except Coun. Michel Dawe, who was absent) supported the Michener site. Coun. Ken Johnston compared Monday’s decision to planning for a pasture before purchasing the horse.
“I’m glad that this city council has upheld its principle to keep (the aquatic centre project) at top of mind,” said Coun. Lawrence Lee, who wants Red Deer to economically benefit from being able to hold water-sports competitions.
“It gives us some certainty… and we are not handcuffing future councils,” regarding when the pool will be built, said Coun. Tanya Handley, who appreciated that the city’s sticking to its predetermined debt limit.