Pool closure at UNB won't change city's priorities, says mayor

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Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien is reiterating the city's position on the closing of the Lady Beaverbrook Gym and Sir Max Aitken Pool at the University of New Brunswick.

On Wednesday the university announced the building that houses the gymnasium and the pool, would permanently shut down in September of 2018.

That leaves many groups in the city — including swimmers, divers and rock wall climbers — without a facility in Fredericton.

O'Brien told Information Morning Fredericton on Friday that the city's main priority is still a new performing arts centre.

"We've been quite articulate the last few years that our priorities are having a new performing arts centre built," said O'Brien. "Because we own the Playhouse, and it's a building that we have to deal with, and our commitment to working with the other levels of government to make sure that the Fredericton International Airport has an expansion done. So we have to get those out of the way first before we can focus on something else."

Regional partnership needed

O'Brien also said the city wasn't going to take care of a new facility by itself.

"We'll reach out to some of the user groups and be part of a regional situation to the problem, because the City of Fredericton is just a user of aquatics at the Aitken pool," he said. "There's a lot of people around who live outside the city, or in different groups or different interest groups, so we'd just be part of a solution, it's got to be a regional solution going forward."

The door is still open to start on that solution even though the city has other immediate priorities, said O'Brien.

"That doesn't mean an aquatic centre cannot be discussed," he said. "Once we have a council discussion and have a little more focus on it, we'll be able to figure out how we can reach out and work with our regional partners. Maybe the regional service commission is the place to start."

There certainly won't be anything in place before UNB shuts the door on the Lady Beaverbrook Gym in September 2018, he said.

"You can't snap your fingers and build a new facility," said O'Brien. "At the best, facilities are 'x' numbers of years away."