Yarmouth pool and recreation centre project pushes forward

A long-anticipated project to expand the Mariners Centre recreation facility in Yarmouth is kicking into gear after years of idling.

The project would see an aquatic centre, indoor and outdoor tracks and a field house added to the Mariners Centre just off Starrs Road. A curling rink could be added in the future.

"All three municipal units in Yarmouth County are quite excited about the project," said Yarmouth Deputy Mayor Phil Mooney.

The town of Yarmouth, the Municipality of the District of Argyle and the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth are collaborating on the project.

"Our building, even though it looks brand new, it's close to 20 years old. So, you know, every few years you have to have a refresh and recalibration of what you're doing," Mooney said.  

Municipalities chase federal dollars

The project has inched forward over the last four years, with a needs assessment completed in 2015 and a feasibility study in 2017. In February, the town said the full expansion could cost as much as $35 million, of which the town expected to pay up to $3 million. 

The three councils recently decided after talking to federal officials that this year was the right time to go after federal infrastructure dollars. 

Leland Anthony, the warden of the Yarmouth district municipality and the chair of the project's steering committee, said the committee anticipates the federal government will accept infrastructure applications by the end of June,. That would provide funds to be earmarked before the October federal election. 

"There was the possibility," Anthony said. "So now's the time to step on it."

New pool would be welcome

A new pool would be a welcome addition to the area, said Jane Cunningham, the president of the Yarmouth Whitecaps swim team, which has about 35 swimmers between the ages of six and 18. 

"Over the last couple of years, I personally thought that it probably would never happen. But I'm really excited to hear that it's back on the table again," she said.  

The Whitecaps practise at the Yarmouth YMCA pool, which is 50 years old. That pool is 18.5 metres long and has four lanes, as opposed to a pool suitable for competition, which would be 25 metres long and have six or eight lanes.

Cunningham said this means the Yarmouth club is unable to hold meets locally, and usually hosts meets in Clare or travels elsewhere in the province. 

"It would be a huge advantage for us as a swim team, but also potentially for the community in general in terms of being able to host meets and having a boost to the economy, having more people get involved in swimming," she said. "I can see so many benefits."

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Anthony agreed that a modern recreation centre might help draw people to settle in the area. 

"This would be a piece of infrastructure that would help put Southwest Nova more in a limelight," he said. 

Anthony says in the next two weeks each of the three councils will have to decide whether to set aside between $30,000-$40,000 to do the work of preparing the application.  

The province has not committed anything but Anthony says it is aware of the project and has signalled that it could be interested in partnering.