In Transcona, an incomplete pool creates waves of frustration

A long delay in the renovation of a Transcona public pool ​has triggered a tsunami of frustration in the east end of the city.

Fenced-off Transcona Centennial Pool emblematic of Winnipeg's construction woes, Coun. Wyatt claims

This outdoor pool in Transcona won't be completed until next year. (CBC)

A long delay in the renovation of a Transcona public pool ​has triggered a tsunami of frustration in the east end of the city.

In 2013, Winnipeg began rebuilding and improving indoor and outdoor components of Transcona Centennial Pool, an aquatics centre built by the former City of Transcona in 1967.

The project called for an expanded splash pad, a kid-friendly beach-style entry into the outdoor pool and renovations to the changing rooms in the indoor portion of the recreational facility.

The city set aside $3.5 million in the 2014 budget to start the project and hoped to devote another $2.5 million from the sale of Roland Michener arena and another nearby surplus city property. But there was little interest in the city land, placing the Transcona pool project in limbo at the end of 2015.

While city council has approved another $2.5 million worth of funding, the outdoor pool remains shuttered and won't be ready for use until 2017.

"When I heard that, my family went out and bought a membership for the Y on Kimberley, because we're tired of waiting for the city," said Transcona resident Lisa van den Hoven.

She said was initially excited to hear about the pool renovation because she has three children, all under the age of 10. Now, she's just annoyed by the continued presence of construction fencing at the corner of Wabasha Street and Kildare Avenue East.

"You have to tell your kids, every time you drive by it, 'No, it's not going to be open for another year.' I'm worried my son will be too old to enjoy it by the time it's open."

Construction on the pool will recommence in July, said John Kiernan, the city's director of planning, property and development. While that's underway, the renovated splash pad will be reopened, separated from the incomplete pool by a fence. 

The city has also backed away from its commitment to make substantive changes to the interior-pool building, mainly because they would trigger even more expensive code-change upgrades to the 50-year-old building, Kiernan said.

An artist's rendering of the new structure planned to accompany the outdoor pool. (City of Winnipeg)
Instead, construction will start this fall on a new change-room facility for the outdoor pool and splash pad. All the components will be ready before the summer of 2017, he said.

"We didn't want to lose another summer," Kiernan said. "Transcona's been without this recreational amenity for a couple of years now."

This change in plan, however, annoys Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt, who tried in vain to convince the city to divert funds from other recreation projects into the original the pool-reconstruction project. 

A long delay in the renovation of a Transcona public pool ​has caused a tidal wave of frustration in the east end of the city. 2:28
He claims Mayor Brian Bowman failed to heed his calls to fund the project last year and spare Transcona residents the indignity of going through another summer without the pool.

"I honestly don't know what I did to offend this mayor," said Wyatt, who has been at loggerheads with Bowman since late 2014, when the rookie mayor was sworn in. "This mayor seems to have an approach which [is], it's his way or the highway."

Jonathan Hildebrand, a spokesman for Bowman, noted Wyatt actually opposed the mayor's efforts to ensure there is enough cash in the city budget to complete the Transcona pool project.

"The 2016 capital budget increased the city's financial commitment to the Transcona Pool project by $2.3 million. Coun. Wyatt opposed that increase in funding, and voted against the budget," Hildebrand claimed in a statement.

Wyatt nonetheless claims the incomplete Transcona pool is emblematic of the city's inability to complete capital projects.

​"The city not having the ability to run a simple project like this, is a concern. It doesn't stop here," said Wyatt, who claims the Transcona Library is also over budget.

"It means project after project across the city is still running over budget, shovels are not hitting the ground on time and that speaks to the challenge of the city not being able to manage its own affairs."

An open house about the pool is slated for Tuesday June 28 at Oxford Heights Community Centre, starting at 5 p.m.