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Abbotsford needs more pools, according to new report

First phase of Aquatic Services and Facilities Strategy is complete
Centennial Pool in Abbotsford is among the aquatic facilities being reviewed as part of the city’s Aquatic Services and Facilities Strategy. (John Morrow file/Abbotsford News)

Abbotsford will require more aquatic facilities to support population growth and demand in the coming years, according to a new report.

The first phase of the Aquatic Services and Facilities Strategy was presented to city council on Nov. 27.

The report, compiled by Cornerstone Planning Group, looks at the current and future needs for aquatic services in the city.

The community currently has two indoor pools – at Matsqui Recreation Centre (MRC) and Abbotsford Recreation Centre (ARC) – and the outdoor Centennial Pool.

All were built decades ago – Centennial in 1958, ARC in 1972 and MRC in 1991.

ARC had major renovations in the mid 1990s, while Centennial had renovations in 1996, 2008 and 2022.

The latest Centennial renovation cost the city $1.5 million, but Quentin Talbot-Kelly with Cornerstone told council that was “really just a Band-Aid solution to keep the facility operating for the next five to seven years.”

RELATED: Centennial Pool in Abbotsford reopens after $1.1M in upgrades

The question for the city to consider as the strategic plan progresses is how much it wants to spend on keeping aging pools going.

The removal of Centennial Pool is among the possible options listed in the Mill Lake Master Plan currently in progress and which will provide a framework for the development and management of the park over the next 15 to 20 years.

Geoff Paynton, the city’s director of recreation and culture, said people love outdoor pools, but they can be more costly to maintain due to wear and tear from weather conditions.

“We’ve spent a lot of more over the years to keep (Centennial) running and functioning. Like anything that gets older, it requires more and more investment to keep it functioning as it is,” he told council.

“… Yes, we could certainly keep it open forever but it’s just going to start costing more and more, and essentially you’re just going to be rebuilding that pool as it sits.”

Talbot-Kelly said the current facilities are well-used. The latest figures from 2019 indicated there were approximately 561,000 annual visits to local pools – a per-capita rate of 3.5.

He said maintaining that rate over the next 10 years would result in an anticipated 793,000 swims per year.

But Abbotsford’s current pool inventory can accommodate only 555,000 swims per year, meaning that infrastructure upgrades would likely be needed, Talbot-Kelly said.

He recommended the city aim to achieve a rate of 5, which would require improvements or additional facilities.

The city has already planned some improvements, designating five new outdoor spray parks over the next five years: at Crossley Park this year, Ridgeview Park in 2024, Eagle Mountain Park in 2025, Homestead Park in 2026 and Pepin Brook Park in 2027.

The report states that residents have indicated the current aquatic services are insufficient and there is an increased demand for programming that supports leisure, health and fitness.

“The current aquatic facilities in Abbotsford are relatively dated and do not include many of the desired features which are emerging or have been staples of the aquatics industry for some time,” states the report to council.

“These features include shallow water, warmer water, play features such as lazy rivers, bubble pits, spray toys and waters slides and social/relaxation areas including multi-level seating in pools, cold dip pools and coloured LED lighting.”

The Aquatic Services and Facilities Strategy now moves to the second stage, which will provide more specific recommendations for maintaining or improving the current facilities and services.

The anticipated completion date of the strategy is December 2024.

The indoor pool at Matsqui Recreation Centre in Abbotsford is among the facilities being reviewed as part of the city’s Aquatic Services and Facilities Strategy. (City of Abbotsford photo)