British Columbia

Vancouver swim clubs fear costs could be too high to stay afloat at indoor facilities

Reduced numbers of swimmers per lane and the requirement to pay a lifeguard for a minimum of four hours are just a couple of the factors marring the excitement around the reopening of the Vancouver Aquatic Club for Jeannie Lo, president of the Canadian Dolphins Swim Club.

Indoor pools are reopening in Vancouver, but not without financial impacts to water sports clubs

The B.C. Age Group Championships were held at the Vancouver Aquatic Centre in February. (Jhim Burwell )

While four of Vancouver's indoor pools are set to open next week — with another four opening in mid-October — the anticipation of the return is tempered by a costly reality for the city's water sports clubs. 

The clubs that rely on the city's facilities say they don't know if new COVID-19 restrictions for pools will allow them to function at full capacity.

Reduced numbers of swimmers per lane and the requirement to pay a lifeguard for a minimum of four hours are just a couple of the factors marring the excitement around the reopening of the Vancouver Aquatic Club for Jeannie Lo, president of the Canadian Dolphins Swim Club.

"We will need to bear the full cost of a lifeguard whilst we are renting the pool because there'll be no sharing of the facility between the public swimmers and the user groups," Lo said.

Christine Ulmer, senior communications manager for the Vancouver Park Board, said it's not a burden they wanted to place on clubs, but the reality is they can't mix the two groups when clubs need their coaches inside as well.

"There are additional maintenance costs and cleaning costs ... there was some discussion they'd potentially fall on the clubs, but they won't ... We'll be absorbing the cost of the additional cleaning required," Ulmer said.

Some Vancouver water sports clubs say they worry the added costs will be too difficult to maintain. (Jhim Burwell )

Lo said the swim club appreciates that swimming lane rentals will cost the same as before, with no extra cleaning fees, but with Vancouver parks following Phase 2 restrictions, while the province is in Phase 3, it means fewer swimmers will be allowed in the lanes.

At the aquatic centre, two lanes have been combined into one, making it safe for six swimmers in a double lane or three in a single. But, a transition to Phase 3 would mean allowing up to 10 swimmers per lane.

Lo fears with a Phase 2 approach it will mean the cost to rent a lane and hire a lifeguard can't be offset by as many swimmers as before and will inevitably be more expensive for the club.

Ulmer said when planning began for reopening indoor pools, the province was in Phase 2. Therefore, the facilities will open under a Phase 2 approach to make sure everything works safely. She promises by the end of week a re-evaluation will take place, meaning the potential for more swimmers per lane.

Uncertainty around costs and schedules

"We're all sitting in the dark, waiting to hear when and if and at what cost we're going to be able to be back at VAC," Lo said.

Her sentiments are echoed by the president of iDive Diving Academy, Brad Tone, who uses the Vancouver Aquatic Centre for his diving club and may end up coordinating with Lo's club to share costs for things like lifeguard fees.

The president of iDive Diving Academy says divers are eager to get back to pool training after relying on dry-land training for months. (Moira Fong)

But Lo said that possibility is based on the schedule the parks board is able to create for the several clubs using the indoor pools in the city. It's a schedule that both Lo and Tone said they're still waiting to see.

Tone said while the aquatic centre is set to open on Sept. 14, he has no answers for members. 

"What we don't have is the actual cost, which means we can't register our divers and we can't get them the information they need and we need to get on that this week," Tone said.

The Vancouver Park Board said it's never had to close and reopen so many facilities at once and is working as fast as possible to get prepared and communicate the scheduling and safety protocols with clubs.

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