Site approved for new aquatic centre

If and when Red Deer builds a new aquatic centre, City council decided on Monday it will be built next to the downtown Recreation Centre in Rotary Park.

However, the cost of a new aquatic centre is estimated to be close to $84 million and there is no money committed towards building it.

The selection of a site for the aquatic centre was good news to 30 plus people attending City council this week, all members and supporters of the Central Alberta Aquatic Centre, especially Jack Cuthbertson, the organization’s chair.

He said the Rotary Recreation Centre site, “Is the best site from a monetary point of view and from an accessibility point of view. We’ve heard from a lot of people; put it downtown, we can get there.”

A study financed by the City looked at other sites for the centre, including Riverlands, where it was felt there wasn’t enough room and the old Park Plaza theatre site, again discarded for lack of room.

It also looked at building it in partnership with Red Deer College, but RDC wasn’t interested.

As well, the study compared it to building at a green field site on the City’s edge, but that would be more expensive (estimated at almost $112 million) because existing facilities at the Rotary Recreation Site would have to be rebuilt at the green field site.

Cuthbertson would like to see a new aquatic centre started in 2013 as a centennial project.

“The year 2013 is the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Red Deer. We’re taking the position that this centre could be a centennial project. We think we could be ready to have a shovel in the ground in 2013, but that does not acknowledge the great problems of financing.

“We’re already working on financing. We don’t expect the City to pick up the total bill.”

He said federal, provincial and local fundraising could help pay for it and that the City might only pay about half the cost.

Councillor Chris Stephan was the only member to vote against the site selection because he was worried about the cost and wanted the City to re-open negotiations with the college. There was a groan of disapproval from the centre’s supporters when he put forward a motion to table a decision, but his motion was defeated.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling said, “It’s very clear there’s a dedicated group of people (the Central Alberta Aquatic Centre) who see the need and the value of the centre.

“The only real question is the funding. They’ve been working for years on this. We have young people who need to go to Calgary to train. Red Deer is the only major city in Alberta without a 50-metre Olympic size competition pool.”

However, the mayor added, Red Deer has exhausted its funds for capital projects like the new RCMP building and civic yards, and the economy is still recovering.

“It’s a big ticket item. However, I remain confident and optimistic that when the time is right we will move that project into the stream (of new capital projects).”

City administration says a new centre couldn’t be built until 2021. It would include a 54 x 25 m competition pool and a 25×15 m diving well as well as a new 25 m outdoor pool to replace the aging outdoor pool at the Rotary Recreation Centre.