New Brunswick

UNB looks to partner with Fredericton to build aquatic centre

The University of New Brunswick is looking to partner with the City of Fredericton and build a new aquatic centre for students and members of the community.

University has been talking with city staff about potential of a new pool on campus

The Sir Max Aitken Pool in the Lady Beaverbrook Gymnasium is closing in the fall of 2018, leaving students and members of the community without a place to swim competitively. (Submitted by the Fredericton Diving Club)

Talks are underway between the City of Fredericton and the University of New Brunswick about a potential aquatic centre on the UNB campus. 

The partnership would allow the university and city to share costs of operations while maintaining a pool for students and members of the community.

The conversation was prompted by UNB's announcement earlier this year that it would close its Sir Max Aitken Pool in the fall of 2018 because it is "past its useful life."

Although nothing has been agreed to yet, George MacLean, vice-president of academics at UNB, has his fingers crossed.

"The conversation has been quite positive, and in recent weeks we've made real progress of the possibility of the partnership between the university and the city," MacLean said Wednesday.

The university has also talked to city staff about what the facility might look like, how it would be managed and operational costs, MacLean said.

 "It's very premature to speak of what a structure might look like," he said.

"This is a campus on a hill so there are a lot of infrastructure and building-cost questions that we don't have answers to."

Moving beyond a vision

George MacLean, vice-president of academics at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, says talks with the city about building a new competitive swimming pool have ben 'quite positive.' (CBC)
But MacLean said the discussions have dealt with building an aquatic centre on the east side of the Richard J. Currie Center, where the parking lot is now.

"We envision an aquatic centre as part of our healthy living village," he said. 

But to take it beyond the vision stage, the university would need a commitment from the city as a partner.

The partnership would need to approach potential donors and look at contributions from the federal  and provincial governments.  

"In recent weeks I do feel we have made a lot of progress and we've heard good things coming from the city in terms of their overall view. … I would caution there are so many specifics in all this that would need to be worked out."

Conversations between faculty and the university's board of governors would also be needed if a partnership goes ahead.  

Local swimmers march on Fredericton's City Hall in support of a new pool. (Phillip Drost/CBC )

UNB plans to build a new centre to replace the Lady Beaverbrook Gym, but at this point, a competitive swimming pool is not part of the complex.

On Tuesday close to 150 people marched to Fredericton's City Hall in support of a new swimming pool for the city.

In June, Mayor Mike O'Brien said the city would not pay for a temporary pool, but it would take a leadership role trying to fund a pool through the regional service commission.

"Discussions with UNB have been ongoing for several years, but the talks are re-energized and will continue," O'Brien said in an emailed statement to CBC News on Wednesday.

"However … those are but one step in a much larger process that must  eventually include the province and federal governments, and how the regional communities will contribute."