Council votes to keep Beltline and Inglewood pools open for two more years

The Beltline Aquatic and Fitness Centre and the Inglewood Aquatic Centre will remain open for two more years, pending approval of the overall budget.

Decision is pending the approval of the overall city budget

Pending the approval of the overall budget, two indoor pools in Beltline and Inglewood will remain open while council seeks out replacement plans. (City of Calgary)

The Beltline Aquatic and Fitness Centre and the Inglewood Aquatic Centre will remain open for at least two more years, pending the approval of the overall budget.

City council voted 11-3 Thursday to keep the two facilities open, with councillors Sean Chu, Peter Demong and Joe Magliocca voting against (Coun. Ray Jones was absent). 

Both pools were due to be closed in January 2020, but will remain open while replacement plans are worked on.

Coun. Evan Woolley said administration's plan – to close both facilities but spend funds to look after the boilers and have security watch the closed pools – didn't make sense.

"The long-term viability is for sure challenged," he said. "But for almost the same amount of money (we can) keep people swimming in them. It's a good idea while we figure out the business plan for what these buildings could be moving forward."

The City of Calgary previously cited the age and condition of the two facilities, along with declining participation rates, as contributing factors behind the closures.

We're super thankful and ecstatic about this news.- Jennifer Battista, coordinator with the Aquabelles swim club

Coun. Jeromy Farkas said the new two-year window could prove to be a "use it or lose it" scenario.

"For this to work, part of it is going to be needing the community to assist us," he said. "I'd be quite a bit more blunt and say we need the community to step up and use the (facilities)."

Pending the approval of the budget, funding will be maintained at a rate of $400,000 per site, per year.

The city will increase marketing and promotion of the two facilities in an attempt to boost its user base, and will reduce operating hours to align with "more financially viable" times. However, one of the two facilities will always remain open, according to the city.

'An early Christmas present'

Prior to Thursday's vote, pushback from frequent users of the two facilities was strong and a number of petitions circulated online to protest the changes.

Representatives from the Aquabelles, a local swim club that has been running programs at the Inglewood pool for 30 years, said they were very happy to hear the pools would stay open.

"Our absolute initial reaction is that we're super thankful and ecstatic about this news. It's very, very welcome news for our club and the other families that were going to be impacted," said Jennifer Battista, the group's coordinator. "Two years is very helpful to us … we'll take what we can get, happily."

The Beltline pool opened in 1954, while the Inglewood pool opened in 1963. 

More to come

Thursday's meeting also saw councillors deliberate on a number of other budget motions, including a main budget motion which calls for a tax freeze for 2020.

A number of other motions were voted down on Thursday, including: 

  • A motion from Magliocca to take $50-million from the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund and use it for unspecified capital projects
  • Another motion from Magliocca to have administration to find an extra $50-million in cuts, but to preserve funding to emergency services
  • A motion from Farkas to reduce the Calgary Arts Development budget to $6.4 million
  • A motion from Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart to cut funding to Family and Community Support Services

After the meeting concluded, Farkas said he was surprised council did not want to move forward with additional motions.

"I do agree with some who are saying that the businesses shouldn't be burdened as they are, but I fundamentally disagree with this idea that homeowners have to pick up the slack," he said. "We need to focus on the need to haves, rather than the nice to haves."

Budget deliberations will continue on Friday morning.

With files from Scott Dippel