Edmonton

Report may sink aquatic athletes' push for diving pool at Lewis Farms rec centre

In January, the ACE proposed changes to the new Lewis Farms recreation centre to include a 10-metre high diving platform and 50-metre long swimming pool. However, a recent report presented to council recommends that the administration proceeds with the original design of the recreation centre.

The report suggests the possibility of a cost-sharing partnership between the city and the ACE

A man stands on the ten metre diving board at the Kinsmen Sports Centre. (Don Hammond Photography/City of Edmonton)

The Aquatic Council of Edmonton's proposal to Edmonton city council for a new pool may be sinking like a brick.

In January, the ACE proposed changes to the new Lewis Farms recreation centre, to include a 10-metre high diving platform and 50-metre long swimming pool.

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

However, a report from the Community Services Committee will be presented to council Monday recommends that the administration proceeds with the original design of the recreation centre without the proposed upgrades.

The report does suggest the possibility of a cost-sharing partnership between the city and the ACE for the addition of the 7.5- and 10-metre diving boards. 

"The dive community would be responsible to submit a business case for assessment by the city that includes a commitment of funding prior to detailed design," reads the report.

'Where would we get that?...right now, money is tight everywhere especially for Alberta.- Herb Flewwelling

It is estimated that the cost would be $1.8 million. The report also states that a 53-metre pool would affect operating costs, as it would be 30 to 40 per cent higher than the operation of a 25-metre pool because of staffing and maintenance expenses.

Herb Flewwelling, the technical chair for the ACE, said that the ACE doesn't have that type of money. 

"Where would we get that?" asked Flewwelling.

"Occasionally that would happen with a grant you could get, but right now money is tight everywhere especially for Alberta."

On Monday, Flewwelling will be making a counter proposal to council that he believes will satisfy both parties. This plan involves, among other things, taking the diving pool portion and moving it into the swimming portion. 

'Like playing hockey without skates'

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

The Kinsmen Sports centre is the only area that can accommodate elite level divers in Edmonton. (CBC)

If in the Kinsmen closes for any amount of time, the national level team of around 20 members, has to leave town. 

"All of the upper-level divers and kids just have to take a break and get back to it later, but the national competitors, they have to move," said Flewwelling.

Every year there are several reasons they have to cancel their training, whether it be an opposing competition in the same space or if the pool shuts down for maintenance. 

All of the upper-level divers and kids just have to take a break and get back to it later, but the national competitors, they have to move.- Herb Flewwelling

"All the major cities have at least one back up," said Flewwelling. "We need to have a backup and we need to have more space to expand."

The other diving pools in Edmonton predominantly have five-metre boards. 

Flewwelling equates training on a ten-metre board and moving to a five-metre board "like playing hockey without skates, it's just ridiculous."

"When you're trying to acclimatize yourself to what you see when you're going, doing it somewhere else just doesn't work. It's like 'OK, let's just train in molasses for a swim meet.'"

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 2022.

with files from Laura Osman

now