Swimmers want city to hurry up and decide on Sir Max Aitken pool offer

Parents in Fredericton's swimming community are losing patience with city hall as it considers an offer to keep the doomed pool at the University of New Brunswick open another year.

'I would never take away from hockey rinks … or the performing arts community'

The University of New Brunswick has offered to keep the Sir Max Aitken pool open until fall 2019 instead of tearing it down in September. (Fredericton Diving Club)

Parents in Fredericton's swimming community are losing patience with city hall as it considers an offer to keep the doomed pool at the University of New Brunswick open another year.

UNB has offered the use of the Sir Max Aitken pool until fall 2019 while the city explores a plan to team up with the YMCA on a new aquatic centre.

Deputy Mayor Kate Rogers has asked people for patience this week while council considers the options, but parents of swimmers say they want a decision soon.

"I think a swimming pool is just as an important part of the overall sports infrastructure in a city as any other," said Mike O'Connor, who has two daughters who swim competitively with the Fredericton Aquanauts swim team and a son who is just learning to swim.

"I would never take away from hockey rinks … or the performing arts community."

The university said it would cover 40 per cent of the net operational costs of keeping the pool open until September 2019. 

Under UNB's proposal, the university's share of the total cost would be about $190,000. The city would pay about $300,000.  

The UNB offer came a day after the city announced it has been working on a partnership with the local YMCA to construct a new competitive pool, fieldhouse and multi-purpose centre for the region.

We've elected our city  councillors  to work through these types of things and I'm really expecting them to that.-Mike O'Connor, pool advocate

The university pool is the only competitive one in the area but is scheduled for demolition in September.

While O'Connor applauded the YMCA for coming forward as a partner, he said it's important to have a variety of options to keep the pool running.  

"UNB recognizes how critical the Sir Max Aitken pool extension is, both to the immediate needs of all the swim programs … but it also recognizes the critical need that extension has to new facility," he said.

"Right now, the single most important thing is the extension of the Sir Max Aitken pool … they [kids] really won't be able to go beyond September if we don't have that extension here."

Next up, he's hoping for a new pool.

"We've elected our city councillors to work through these types of things and I'm really expecting them to that." 

Swimmers want chance

Kim Butt, president of the Fredericton Synchronized Swimming Club, also feels the pool should stay open until another pool is built.

Butt, who has three daughters active in the sport, said she's also hopeful negotiations will work out with the YMCA.

"We were very optimistic when UNB came up with the offer. [We're] just concerned about not having a facility in place until a more permanent solution is found."

Mike O'Connor and Dr. Kim Butt are two parents of competitive swimmers who would like a decision soon on the new aquatic centre in Fredericton. 14:46

She said 2019 is an important year on the horizon for the synchronized swimming community. Half the New Brunswick swimmers for the event at the Canada Games that year will be trying out from the Fredericton area. 

"Our sport is all girls," she said. "And girls — they deserve the chance to do their sport and to have proper facilities and infrastructure to do their sport."

She said a pool is an important part of the Fredericton community and the city should be able to support programs such as swimming.

"These kids deserve the chance to be able to do their sport just like any other sport," she said.