Kids need better play spaces at Edmonton's city hall, politicians say

A playground. An ice plant. These are two things some city councillors and the mayor want to add to the wading pool area outside Edmonton city hall.

'We want to make it fun for families,' says Mayor Don Iveson

"It's exactly the days when it is the most attractive to use it that we've been having to close it down," said Coun. Ben Henderson of the ice rink in front of city hall. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

The wading pool area outside Edmonton's city hall needs a playground and an ice-maker, city councillors say.

A $12.9-million upgrading project for the wading pool area and nearby Churchill Square is now in the design phase, with construction slated to begin in April 2018.

The project provides an opportunity for the city to look at how to make the area even more family-friendly, Coun. Bev Esslinger said Thursday.

"We're looking at everything from a playground to a playable piece of art ... or a pile of rocks," said Esslinger.

She said at present, children visiting city hall have nothing to do during the shoulder seasons when it's too cold for the wading pool or too warm for the ice rink.

Mayor Don Iveson told CBC's Edmonton AM on Thursday that city hall and Churchill Square need to be "a gathering place.

"We want to make it fun for families," he said.

The wading pool has been operating for 25 years, and no longer meets provincial health standards in terms of water filtration requirements, said Iveson.

As a result, the redesign calls for the water to be ankle-deep instead of knee-deep, he said. The wading pool is expected to reopen in 2019.
A rendering of the city hall wading pool that depicts the proposed ankle-deep level. (City of Edmonton)

Esslinger and Iveson want city administration to investigate options to get around changing the pool's depth.

Coun. Ben Henderson agrees.

"I think we play with this at huge risk, it's been such a successful feature," Henderson said. "I think we should explore every option we have to keep as close to what we have as possible."

Henderson is also behind the push to add an ice plant to the project, to allow people to "skate on those lovely days when the ice isn't hard enough."

It doesn't need to go underground, and could be added at a later date, he said.

The ice plant was part of the original design when city hall was built in the early 1990s, but just never happened, said Henderson. Refrigeration pipes were put in at the time but are now leaking.

The pipe repairs are within the scope of this upgrading project, but the ice plant itself would be extra, said Henderson.

There's no estimate of how much an ice plant would cost.

With construction to begin in the spring, "time is pretty tight," Henderson said, adding councillors will have to make some decisions about the extras early in the new year.