New Brunswick

City of Fredericton, UNB team up to get new pool rolling

The City of Fredericton and UNB are putting up the first $6 million for a $32 million aquatic centre in New Brunswick's capital. 

Replacement for Sir Max Aitken pool will include a competitive 25-metre pool in the Knowledge Park area

The city hopes a new aquatic centre will be built next to the Grant-Harvey Centre in Fredericton by 2021. (Daniel McHardie/CBC)

The City of Fredericton and UNB are putting up the first $6 million for a $32 million aquatic centre in New Brunswick's capital.

City council voted Monday to partner with the University of New Brunswick on the project, which will include a competitive 25-metre pool with up to 10 lanes.

The pool will be built next to the Grant-Harvey Centre in Fredericton's Knowledge Park.

"The clock was ticking," said Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien, who had earlier opposed putting city money into a UNB pool project. "That's why we had to get together with UNB and get this ball rolling."

Federal, provincial money needed

But the project hinges on whether the partnership can get another $20 million from the federal and provincial governments.

Last spring, the city, UNB and the province agreed to keep the Sir Max Aitken Pool open until September 2021 after its closure was announced in the spring of 2017.

Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien says the city's partnership with UNB is the first step to getting a new acquatic centre built. (Gary Moore/CBC)

The pool was initially scheduled to close in the fall of 2018 after months of failed negotiations between the city and the university.

That would've left many groups in the city — including swimmers, divers and rock wall climbers — without a place to practise their sports in Fredericton. 

The purpose of the three-year extension on the old pool was to help the city come up with a long-term solution. 

O'Brien said he's not thinking about the 2021 timeline now. Instead, he's focused on getting the project up and running.

"We've got some details to work out, should timelines sneak up on us," he said. "We'll address that when that happens.

"Let's be confident that we can get this train out of the station and see where it leads us."

The city is putting in $3 million in cash, and the additional $3 million reflects the value of some land the university is giving to the city.   

The Sir Max Aitken Pool in the Lady Beaverbrook Gymnasium is the only pool in Fredericton able to host competitive aquatic events. It closes in 2021. (Submitted by the Fredericton Diving Club)

George MacLean, UNB's vice-president academic, said it was important the university be part of the project because it will benefit citizens in the region.

"[It's] an opportunity for us to see a future for our athletics teams, and programs and students and staff that work at the university," he said. 

Hoping for regional help too

MacLean said the university will be responsible for a portion of the operating costs, based on how much the university uses the centre.

The city hopes another $6 million will come from regional governments and private fundraisers.

"There are other partners that have to come on that we will talk to during the process," O'Brien said at Monday's meeting.

"We'd like to find somebody to lead a capital campaign. There's [been] a lot of interest from the community over the last few of years."

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