A long-awaited replacement for Yellowknife's Ruth Inch Memorial Pool took a big step forward Monday evening, as city council voted to accept $12.9 million in federal funding for the project.

The money, which would come from the federal government's Building Canada Fund, provides the funding if the City of Yellowknife commits to a contribution of $4.3 million.

Senior Administrative Officer Dennis Kefalas said at last night's meeting that the funding can be drawn from as early as 2018 and must be spent by December of 2022. It can be used for planning of the new facility, such as a needs assessment study, as well as architectural plans, plus brick-and-mortar construction costs.

The motion to accept the funding was accepted unanimously by city council following a very brief discussion.

"From my point of view, this is an exciting pot of money to dip into," said councillor Niels Konge. "So I'll certainly be supporting this."

Total cost could be over $30 million

While the motion to accept the funding will add a significant amount of capital to the pool project, it is not likely to cover the entire cost. A 2011 report from Dillon Consulting pegged the cost of a new aquatic centre in Yellowknife at $55.9 million, and other cost estimates based on recent pool projects in Northern Canada put the cost near $30 million.

A staff report, tabled last week, suggested borrowing money to cover the cost, noting low lending rates would mean there would be "no immediate tax increase to pay for the project," and suggesting debt could be serviced using Gas Tax Rebate funding.

According to the 2011 report by Dillon Consulting, Ruth Inch Memorial Pool will reach its life expectancy in 2020. The staff report also stated that Ruth Inch is operating at capacity — meaning that user groups have to share lanes — and that it doesn't have the 50-metre lanes needed to hold national or regional level competitive meets.

No location has been identified for the proposed new aquatic centre.