Representatives from various Red Deer aquatic groups who joined forces to save the Michener Pool years ago have teamed up again with a new mission.
Known as the Central Alberta Aquatic Centre, these men and women are determined to see a 53-metre multi-use pool built in the city.
Such a facility is needed, they argue, to ensure local water-based programs stay afloat.
Bob Diewold, president of the Silver Sharks Masters Swim Club and aquatic group member, said the current pool capacity simply cannot accommodate the growing population.
Enrolment for the swim club that caters to those 18 and older had to be capped to 150 members last season because, Diewold said, there was not enough space to accept the additional 50 swimmers interested in joining the club.
“We turned away as many people this year as we had swimming three years ago,” Diewold said.
The lack of space has also plagued the Catalina Swim Club and the Red Deer Synchronized Swim Club.
“The current pool space in Red Deer, and even when you open up the Dawe Centre, isn’t adequate in peak times for the user groups,” said Marty Bruin, past president of Catalina who is a an aquatic centre member. He also spearheaded the original team that successfully lobbied the city to save the Michener pool.
“We don’t have a pool in Red Deer that can accommodate the population of Red Deer,” agreed Debbie Rowe, past president of the local synchronized swim club and aquatic group member.
She said the city does not have a facility that is both deep and large enough for the synchronized swimmers to practise their entire routine in. The members, therefore, have to use both the dive tank at the Michener pool as well as the deepest end of the Recreation Centre pool to perfect their program.
Recreational swimmers are also feeling the pinch.
“I can’t swim recreationally at the Rec because it’s so full that you don’t get an aerobic workout,” said Grant Howell, a community representative with the coalition.
“It’s really not an enjoyable experience.”
All agree the space crunch comes down to the fact that a population that has more than doubled in the past 30 years is still being serviced by the same 11 lanes — six are located at the Michener Centre and five are at the Recreation Centre.
The Dawe Centre pool, which will re-open in August, is too shallow for any of the groups to use.
The call for new larger pool is not a new one.
A 2008 Community Assets Needs Assessment survey highlighted the need for a multi-use facility that includes a 50-metre pool, something other communities such as Lethbridge and Medicine Hat already have.
The local coalition is now one step closer to realizing the goal.
City council approved $200,000 last week so the group can move ahead with preliminary planning initiatives for the desired aquatic centre.
Group members have eagerly teamed up with representatives from the city to form a joint task force that will spend this money in three areas.
Smaller expenditures include preparing a business plan and operating model as well as a community awareness campaign.
The bulk of the money, about $150,000, will be used to hire a consultant to prepare a concept model.
While it’s still early in the process, the task force is facing questions about what the facility will include and where it should be located.
The group has proposed a 10-lane, 53-metre pool with moveable bulkheads. Diewold explained the bulkheads can be used to break the tank into three separate 25-metre pools so the facility can accommodate numerous needs at the same time.
Such a centre could result in aquatic sports not now found in Red Deer, such as diving and water polo, as well as house various competitions even at the national level, the group members said.
“We’re definitely talking about building a community resource that would be suitable for competition but at the end of the day is for everybody,” Diewold said.
The proposed pool, the group stressed, would benefit the aquatic groups and the community as a whole.
“We have to accommodate every citizen at all levels,” Rowe said.
Where a new facility would be built is up in the air, but it could be added to the Recreation Centre as part of the greater Rotary Recreation Project.
“Wherever the city wants to put it, we will be behind it because we want it,” Rowe said.
Diewold and Bruin agreed this spot makes sense as the area is already serviced and is a central location that is easily accessible.
Some councillors expressed concerns at the May 3 council meeting, however, as one proposal calls for the removal of the outdoor pool to facilitate the space for the large indoor tank.
Construction of a family-friendly leisure outdoor pool is also included in the proposed concept.
While the aquatics group was not involved in the design, Diewold said such concerns are premature in these early planning stages.
“It’s just out there because it’s a possibility and nothing more,” Diewold said. “But there are other possibilities as well, as I understand it.”
The task force has tentative plans to meet this week for the first time since being awarded the $200,000.
Diewold said he hopes that within the year they’ll have used the money to produce a more specific timeline on the project.
When financing is needed to get construction rolling, the group members expressed a commitment to help raise funds, although they anticipate the majority of money will come from the various levels of government.