Edmonton

Aquatic athletes push for bigger better pool at Lewis Farms rec centre

Edmonton’s aquatic athletes are hoping to make a new home for their sport in the west end but it will mean changing the plan for the city’s newest recreation centre, making it more expensive.

City doesn't know how much expanded plans would cost

The Aquatic Council of Edmonton wants to see elite athletic facilities become part of the plan for the Lewis Farms recreation centre, which will likely open in about six years. (CBC)

Edmonton's aquatic athletes are hoping to make a new home for their sport in the west end but it will mean changing the plan for the city's newest recreation centre, making it more expensive.

The Aquatic Council of Edmonton (ACE) hopes to convince city council to expand its plans for the new Lewis Farms recreation centre to include a 10 meter high diving platform and 50 meter long swimming pool.

The only pool that meets the group's needs right now is the Kinsmen, which is due to close for several months for $106 million renovations sometime in the future. The timing of the closure hasn't been determined yet.

ACE hopes the new pool will give athletes somewhere to practice and compete once the Kinsmen closes, so they don't have to leave Edmonton to train.

"This is kind of our one shot in Edmonton right now," said ACE president Chris Nelson.

There are about 100 athletes who would benefit from the expanded facilities, according to Nelson.

He said there are no other pools planned in the city that meet aquatic athletes' needs.

The current plan for the Lewis Farms pool includes a deep diving pool, but the diving board is only 5 meters and the separate swimming lanes are only 25 meters long.

In order to expand those plans, the city may have to consider shrinking the park or gymnasium plans that are also part of the recreation centre.

City administration doesn't know how much it would cost to expand the plans, but council has agreed to look into it.

Ron Nichol, operations supervisor of Kinsmen, said the cost of operating the 50 meter pool would be huge.

He said the pool requires two million litres of water, which must be filtered, temperature controlled, and cleaned.

"That's a huge daily expense," he said.

Money should be spent on the community 

Coun. Michael Oshry wondered if the money would be better spent on something more people from the community would benefit from.

"They're looking for basic recreation facilities," he said. "They're looking for swimming lessons for their kids, they're looking for rinks for figure skating and hockey."

He said the west end has a lack of recreation facilities. He often gets calls from people in west Edmonton who can't find a place to put their kids in swimming lessons.

"Our number one priority for the new rec centre should be for the citizens of the west end," Oshry said.

Public consultation revealed the community would rather see an extra sheet of ice than elite athletic training facilities.

According to the current design, the $180 million Lewis Farms recreation centre will also contain two NHL sized indoor ice rinks, three gymnasiums, and a fitness centre.

The earliest it would open to the public is likely 2022.

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