Pools squeezed for space as registration rush begins for fall lessons

The closure of a busy Halifax-area pool for renovations and the cancellation of classes at two other spots have put the squeeze on parents looking to place their children in fall swimming lessons.

Renovations at Dartmouth Sportsplex have put pressure on other pools in the Halifax area

It's shaping up to be a very busy fall for youth swimming lessons in the Halifax area. (Reuters)

The closure of a busy Halifax-area pool for renovations and the cancellation of classes at two other spots have put the squeeze on parents looking to place their children in fall swimming lessons.

Amyl Ghanem tried to sign up her seven-year-old daughter, Thea, for swimming lessons at the Canada Games Centre in Halifax, but the pool ran out of spots in her preferred classes the day registration opened.

When that failed, she waited for the city-run program registration to open Aug. 17.

"You really have to be on the ball in August and know exactly what the date is of registration for any swimming program to be open," said Ghanem.

This year particularly busy

The moment registration opened at 10 a.m., Ghanem was ready to log on to the municipality's RecConnect website to sign Thea up for lessons. 

"I got pretty lucky, I think maybe 20 minutes of trying to log in, I got into the portal," said Ghanem. "And from there, there were still spots so I was able to sign her up for a lesson." 

Ghanem said her daughter took swimming lessons last year as well. Although it was difficult to find a spot in 2016, she said, this year seemed to be worse even though she started her search sooner. 

Running out of room

The Dartmouth Sportsplex is in the middle of a major renovation project. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The closure of the Dartmouth Sportsplex for renovations has put pressure on other local pools, said Mike Cogdon, general manager of Cole Harbour Place.

"We're increasing our staffing levels and also looking at opportunities just to fill our pools as best as we can," he said Friday.

"The reality is we're not going to be able to accommodate the need, just from our sheer size. There's a lot of people looking for lessons."

'Pretty full pools'

Cogdon said swim registration is underway at Cole Harbour Place now and the pool is hiring more lifeguards to offer as many classes as possible. 

"We're the lone pool on this side of the harbour," he said, adding that family swims this summer were busier than normal.

"Our pool is generally the quietest ... through July and August, but we were at capacity for almost all of our swims during the week, which does not normally happen.

"If that's a sign of things to come, we're going to have some pretty full pools, that's for sure." 

Displaced swim teams

Adding to the crunch on the Halifax side of the harbour, Centennial Pool has decided not to offer children's swim lessons for the fall and winter seasons.

The pool manager explained that the mandate at Centennial is to support amateur competitive sport, and so the decision was made to give priority to youth swim teams displaced from the Sportsplex. 

Some adult lessons will still be available during the day, but the lanes are so busy with team practices during the evenings that after-school lessons will not be available. 

In addition, Dalplex at Dalhousie University announced last year that it would no longer offer swimming lessons. 

'The problem is the prime time spots'

According to Rhonda Dea, HRM's coordinator of aquatics, there are approximately 6,000 spots available for children and youth at the three municipally run pools: Captain William Spry, Needham, and the Sackville Sports Stadium. 

"We usually hit about 70 per cent registration," she said. "So we've never, ever not had enough spots to offer people. We may not have the exact timespot that they want, but we've never ever had a season where every single timespot has filled."

Dea said she doesn't think the closure of the Dartmouth Sportsplex will have much effect on the city's ability to offer swimming lessons, but she said it's still a good idea for parents to sign up now. 

"The problem is the prime time spots, so we do have people on waitlists." 

Registration for city spots opened Thursday and Dea said by Friday, the Captain William Spry pool was registered at about 50 per cent capacity, while Needham was at about 35 per cent capacity. Registration at the Sackville Sports Stadium does not start until Monday. 

Dea said pool managers evaluate weekly whether there's a need to open up more timeslots to serve families who are waitlisted. 

More options needed

Ghanem said she would like to see more activities available for children and families in the city. 

"I've noted that in Halifax, the demand on any type of child activity is incredible," she said. 

"There's an enormous amount of people out there looking for these sorts of things and the availability is fairly low." 

About the Author

Shaina Luck


Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca