Fredericton rejects UNB offer to keep pool another year

A last-minute attempt to temporarily extend the lifespan of UNB’s Sir Max Aitken pool has been quashed as Fredericton Mayor Mike O’Brien announced Thursday that the city will not work with the university to keep it open.

Announcement comes a month after UNB proposed cost-sharing arrangement with city

The City of Fredericton and the University of New Brunswick are no longer exploring ways to keep the Sir Max Aitken pool open beyond September. (Fredericton Diving Club)

A last-minute attempt to temporarily extend the lifespan of UNB's Sir Max Aitken pool has been quashed as Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien announced Thursday that the city will not work with the university to keep it open.

This comes a month to the day after the university proposed a way to keep the pool open another year. The proposal included having the city pay 60 per cent of the costs.

O'Brien told reporters Thursday that the city decided against paying the costs of keeping a pool the city doesn't own. 

"Quite frankly, for the city to take on the operational costs, the risks associated with any repair and maintenance and all liabilities for their facility, past, present and future was just not a risk that we wanted to put the taxpayers of this city in that position," he said.

O'Brien said he understood the swimming community is interested in the long-term outlook for aquatics in Fredericton, but the city is focused now on the new performing arts centre.

Fredericton Olympian reacts

Marianne Limpert took the city to task for ignoring the pool situation for over a decade in a statement sent to CBC News. (CBC)

Marianne Limpert, an Olympic silver medallist in swimming and Fredericton native, expressed disappointment at hearing the news that the pool won't be saved.

"This was my home as I trained for the Atlanta Olympics and it has been home to the hopes and dreams of thousands of young aspiring Olympians over the years, especially many young girls whose choices for athletic excellence are much more limited," wrote Limpert in a statement sent to CBC News.

Limpert also took the city to task for ignoring the issue of an aging Sir Max Aitken Pool for so long.

"I cannot comprehend how we ever got to this point and where a city like Fredericton could allow it's only competitive pool to close when it had a full decade to prepare and plan for it," wrote Limpert.

"During that time period, there have been countless investments in other sports by this City and while these have all been worthy investments, the City was unable this time to find the leadership or the heart to do right by these athletes."

Accommodating swimmers

Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien said the city will accommodate some swimmers at the Fredericton Indoor Pool on the city's northside. (CBC)

O'Brien said the city will try to accommodate as many swimmers as possible at the Fredericton Indoor Pool, a non-competitive swimming pool on the north side.

"We have a tentative draft schedule … of how to accommodate as many users as we can [at the Fredericton Indoor Pool,]" said O'Brien, adding the city estimates the indoor pool can accommodate up to 60 per cent of the UNB pool's recreational users.

O'Brien said the city will accommodate some competitive users, but some will be left on dry land.

"You obviously can't dive in this pool, synchronized swimming requires certain depth to do some of their training," said O'Brien.

The city had been exploring working with the YMCA on building a competitive pool, but there is no agreement from those discussions yet.

University 'regret[s]' decision

In a statement released to the university community, UNB president Eddy Campbell outlined two additional offers that were on the table during negotiations.

In a statement sent to members of the university community, UNB president Eddy Campbell wrote the university regretted the rejection by the city.

"For more than a decade we've advocated our case for a new pool to the City and other stakeholders," Campbell wrote.

"We regret that the City's response to our offers means UNB will not be a partner in the drive to find a solution to Fredericton's pool needs."

In the statement Campbell writes of two other offers made during the negotiations.

The first was a counter offer made by the city.

The city wanted a three-year agreement and 76 per cent of the financial responsibility would fall on UNB's shoulders.

After this the university made their final offer on Feb. 15 which would've seen the university lease the pool to the city for $1 a year.

"The City would take over operations of the pool and control user fees as they see appropriate while UNB would contribute its 40 per cent ($190,000) of net operating costs on a year's extension to September, 2019," wrote Campbell.

"In the end, the City decided that the age of the building and the possibility of large future ongoing operating costs made the risk too great."

The Six Max Aitken pool is scheduled to close in September 2018.

About the Author

Jordan Gill

Reporter

Jordan Gill is a CBC reporter based out of Fredericton. He can be reached at jordan.gill@cbc.ca.

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