Yellowknife's move to re-examine building a new pool 'a step backwards,' says swim club

A move by Yellowknife city council to re-examine whether to build a new aquatic centre or to renovate and expand on the existing one is a move in the wrong direction, according to the Yellowknife Polar Bear Swim Club. 

"We've already talked about it," said Rene Lelievre, one of the club's board members. She sat on the city's advisory committee concerning the centre in 2018. At the time, the committee decided it wanted to go with the new pool option.

The previous city council voted in favour of building the new, 52-metre aquatic centre.  

"I feel like it's a step backwards at this point," Lelievre said. "There's very little within the facility currently — in terms of its mechanical systems, air exchange, even the structure of the actual pool — that can be salvaged at this point."

Lelievre added the current pool is recognized as a training facility for Arctic Winter Games, Canada Summer Games and Winter Canada Games athletes.

Need a decision now, councillor

The decision to re-examine the aquatic centre options came up during a council meeting on Monday.

Councillors asked whether $12.9 million, which the city received from the federal government to build the new centre, could go toward fixing the existing pool instead.

"Anything other than our current path … would have to come from [the territorial government]," said SAO Sheila Bassi-Kellett, who added city administration was working to find this out. 

CBC contacted the city about whether this funding could be put toward renovating and expanding the existing pool, but did not receive a reply by Tuesday evening. 

Sara Minogue/CBC

Coun. Niels Konge chaired the city's advisory committee. At Monday's council meeting, he said whatever decision they make, it needs to happen now. Konge said the city loses money the longer it waits.

"We've taken two steps, then it seems like we want to turn around and run back to the start of the path," he said. 

Konge had concerns about what construction would mean for Yellowknife's swimmers if the pool is closed for over a year. 

"We have the one [pool]. If it's shut down, there is nothing available to the public."

"The pool is already over capacity," said Coun. Julian Morse. "We've acknowledged that and went pretty far down the road of planning this project as a result."

Councillors voted in favour of discussing the different options for the aquatic centre. That discussion will happen at their governance and priorities committee meeting on Jan. 6, 2020.