Red Deer’s new City council appears to be a little hesitant to test the waters of a new aquatic centre and so the discussion will continue for another year after council decided to not include the centre in this year’s budget.
For supporters of the facility, this step backwards is not something new in the more than five years this project has been worked on.
“We’ve been on the budget twice and taken off twice and so we’ve had our share of ups and downs,” said Central Alberta Aquatic Centre Committee Chair John Cuthbertson.
There is a solid plan in place following a $200,000 grant from the City to bring something to the table to work from and use the current space where the Recreation Centre pool is located, he said. “We aren’t going to be wasting this (Recreation Centre) by tearing it down or anything else of that nature. This will be part and parcel of the centre itself and we will extend south.”
Cuthbertson said the funding for the centre would be gleaned from the various levels of government including the surrounding counties whose residents would also benefit from this facility.
Also on the list of potential fund sources would be the Alberta Winter Games if the Red Deer bid is accepted, he said.
“Then we’re going to be able to say to the taxpayer, we have you in mind, we’re not going to overburden you. It’s certainly going to cost something but rest assured it’s going to be as low as we can get it.”
There have been some estimates of the cost ranging around $90 million but committee members have said that number includes some extras like the spray park which has already been constructed near the Golden Circle.
The design does include 10, 50m lanes for swimming, a dive tank and moveable bulk heads in order to close off areas so groups can hold different events.
“We have a very good start (referring to the design), it’s much more than just a bunch of pictures. I’m sure the architectural firm would be ready to start the actual drawings and that sort of thing as soon as we want to.”
Cuthbertson said even with Red Deer being the third largest city in the province we are lacking when it comes to servicing our residents with aquatic space .
“The other night at our meeting it was mentioned that there are 732 people, I think children, on the waiting list to get into swim lessons. Now that has to say something.”
The other side of the coin is the argument from those opposed to the centre who feel a major facility like this one would not be used enough to make it worth the money spent on it.
“That was so, I’m sure, for the Centrium, certainly for Collicutt,” he said, about the project which he describes as a community effort to be the best we can and this centre would accomplish that.
As an example he pointed to a similar centre in Nanaimo B.C. which was built after citizens voted on a plebiscite to go ahead with the project.
“He said (a town official) we won it by one per cent and he said look at it now. It was full and he said it’s always full. People don’t know what they would do without it. I suspect that’s going to happen here.”
Maybe, but not right away at least.