Their recently formed advocacy group, the Abbotsford Aquatic Parents Society (AAPS), has put together a proposal to build a 10-lane training pool at a cost of less than $10 million.
“We’re talking about being able to put together a facility the city absolutely needs,” said Olympians head coach Jason Chugh.
“Essentially, at the end of the day, what we need is a hole in the ground and a box to cover it. That’s it. We don’t need the Taj Mahal.”
The Olympians, Abbotsford’s year-round swim club, have been renting lane space at Matsqui Recreation Centre since 2004. Practising in a tank designed as a wave pool is not ideal – the MRC lanes are 1.2 metres wide, whereas 2.5 metres is standard. Given the facility limitations, the Olympians can’t expand much beyond their current membership of 80.
Their proposal, dubbed the Legacy Pool Project, was brought before the parks and recreation commission last week. The commission requested additional research from the AAPS, and they will submit a revised document in September for possible inclusion in the parks and rec master plan, which would then be brought before city council.
The AAPS is suggesting a public-private partnership (P3) with a joint ownership component. The city would pay the bulk of the construction costs, while the AAPS has pledged $100,000 over 10 years and would participate in additional fundraising. The Olympians and other user groups would each take a 15 per cent ownership stake to cover ongoing maintenance costs.
The AAPS, after discussions with building consultants, estimate the cost of a structure to house a pool at roughly $2 million. As for the pool itself, they priced out two different sizes of Myrtha-brand products. A 25×25-metre pool would cost approximately $2.9 million, while a 50×25-metre pool would be $4.5 million.
The land cost hasn’t been finalized, as the AAPS has yet to propose a location. They’ve been directed to look into partnerships with Twisters Gymnastics Club, which began a fundraising drive in 2012 to build a new $20-million facility at Exhibition Park, or the University of the Fraser Valley.
Chugh noted the facility isn’t designed with the Olympians exclusively in mind. A training pool would also facilitate indoor water polo, diving and synchronized swimming teams – opportunities which aren’t currently available in Abbotsford.
Training for athletic clubs would be the pool’s primary function, but the general public would also utilize the pool for lap swimming.
“If you’re building a 10-lane, 50-metre pool, there’s a lot of space there,” Chugh said. “You can have two or three groups in the pool at the same time and still have room for the public.”
The YMCA proposal, which was shelved in April, would have seen the city cover $17.5 million of the $35-million total cost to build on the former MSA Hospital site on McCallum Road. In addition to providing a recreation facility and swimming pool, the YMCA would have also offered a variety of community outreach programs.
But YMCAs typically do not accommodate swim clubs, and the pool dimensions may not have been ideal for training anyway.
Chugh noted the Legacy Pool Project would cost less than the YMCA, and the city would own the asset in the end.
Coun. Bill MacGregor, a member of the parks and rec commission, said the pool would be “a tremendous asset to our community,” but noted the potential cost to taxpayers is always an issue.
“We’re very supportive of it in theory, but of course, there are big hurdles,” he said. “Such as, how does a constituency like ours pay for it?”