Prince George pool closes permanently; replacement to have built-in obstacle course

·3 min read
The first NinjaCross system in North America was installed at Pirates Bay waterpark in Baytown, Texas in 2019.
The first NinjaCross system in North America was installed at Pirates Bay waterpark in Baytown, Texas in 2019.

(Tracy Eason/NinjaCross Systems - image credit)

A swimming pool once referred to as a "jewel" and endorsed with a dive by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau is closing for good in Prince George, B.C. — but the city hopes the promise of a new obstacle course in its place will give residents something to look forward to.

Council voted Monday to permanently decommission the Four Seasons Leisure Pool, which has been unused since COVID-19 restrictions forced it shut in March 2020.

The pool was already slated to be replaced in 2022, but with the city's finances strained by the pandemic, Coun. Cori Ramsay said the earlier closure was a tough but necessary decision.

"It just didn't make sense to be paying $400,000 for an asset we weren't using," Ramsay told CBC Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk, referring to the cost of maintaining the pool while closed. "There were no plans to open [the pool] throughout all of 2021 and it just didn't sit well."

'A jewel' that hosted Pierre Trudeau

The pool first opened in June of 1970 following a campaign that saw residents fundraise nearly half the construction cost.

According to reports in the Prince George Citizen, lines to get in were two hours long and additional swimming lessons had to be scheduled to meet demand.

"If recreation facilities are any measure of a community's status, then Prince George must out-status … the majority of other cities in the province," the paper's editorial page proclaimed, calling the new pool a "jewel."

The recreation section of the Four Seasons Leisure Pool in Prince George, B.C. There is also a children's pool and a section for swim lanes and divers.
The recreation section of the Four Seasons Leisure Pool in Prince George, B.C. There is also a children's pool and a section for swim lanes and divers.

Later that year, the paper reported Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau paid a visit "clad in a blue skin-tight pair of trunks" and executed a single backflip off the one-metre diving board.

"It's a beautiful pool," Trudeau said at the time.

But by 2017, caustic chemicals were eating away at pipes and the cost of maintenance was growing.

Rather than pay those costs, taxpayers voted to approve a $35-million loan to shut the Four Seasons down and replace it with a new, modern pool a few blocks away.

That's in addition to the newer Aquatic Centre, which was built in 1998 to meet the city's growing demand for places to swim, as well as provide regulation-sized swim lanes and diving boards to host competitions.

New pool 'something exciting to look forward to'

The as-yet-unnamed new pool is set to carry on the Four Seasons' legacy as a local pool for casual users, with a focus on recreation rather than competitive facilities.

To that end, council also voted Monday to commit $500,000 for the purchase of a NinjaCross system, which is touted as an "on-demand obstacle course."

The course will be paid for with a $10-million federal infrastructure grant the city received to go along with the pool.

While most councillors voted in favour of the purchase, Terri McConnachie and Garth Frizzell said they wanted to wait until pool construction was further along to decide so they could better assess the city's financial situation.

Ramsay said while it might seem counterintuitive for council to spend an additional $500,000 on the new pool at the same time it is closing the old one to save roughly the same amount, she believes the long-term payoff will be worth it, both by attracting more revenue from repeat visitors and adding something new to the city's recreational offerings.

"I think residents are going to need something exciting to look forward to," she said. "It's going to be a great new feature."

To hear the full interview with Ramsay, tap the audio below.