Public school trustees support aquatics centre proposal

A $90-million aquatic centre is making a splash with Red Deer Public Schools trustees.

A $90-million aquatic centre is making a splash with Red Deer Public Schools trustees.

Trustees voted unanimously on Wednesday to provide a support letter to the Central Alberta Aquatic Centre Society for the proposed new centre in downtown Red Deer.

The centre would be the only aquatics facility in Red Deer with a 50-metre pool.

Supporters hope that within 10 years, and with the financial help of the provincial and federal governments, that the centre could be built near the downtown Red Deer Recreation Centre.

Aquatic centre society public relations chair Debbie Rowe told trustees the centre will first and foremost be a multi-use building.

“It will offer programs for the entire community, schools and surrounding towns,” Rowe said.

She said the centre would attract provincial and national meets for swim races, waterpolo and synchronized swimming.

Rowe said the society hopes to start construction by 2014.

The society contends the centre would attract substantial tourist dollars as well.

Red Deer city council offered its support for the project in May 2010 with $200,000 towards planning.

Council couldn’t justify at that time moving the centre up in the 10-year capital plan, Red Deer city manager Craig Curtis said on Thursday.

The $200,000 is for a three-phase study towards a site selection process, a concept plan, a business plan and building community awareness.

Rowe told trustees the Michener Centre pool is in danger of being decommissioned in three to five years.

But Curtis said that the Michener pool is not in danger of being decomissioned. He said there will be a review of the pool lease with the province and city in about a year.

“That’s not to say it’s going to be decommissioned at all,” Curtis said.

“Our pools are very well used and short of building a new facility, which at this point is a long way off and can’t be afforded, we have no immediate plans to recommend decommissioning,” Curtis said.

A city facilities needs assessment study previously identified aquatics as No. 3 on the priority list.

School trustee Bev Manning said she was taken aback by the cost of an aquatics project and wondered if user fees would rise.

Rowe said they would probably rise a little but the committee wasn’t at the meeting to discuss financing.

“My concern is that not everyone can afford the costs,” Manning added.

Rowe and Cathy Lalor, who is a society director, told trustees that swimming programs are important in many schools.

Jack Cuthbertson, chair of the aquatics centre society, said he has visited many pool facilities in Western Canada and learned they are funded by taxpayers.

He said the committee is working with the three levels of government to help push for a funding formula.

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