New Brunswick

UNB offers to extend life of Sir Max Aitken Pool until 2019

The University of New Brunswick has made an offer to the city of Fredericton to keep the Sir Max Aitken pool open for another year.

University offers to keep the pool open until September 2019

UNB has proposed extending the life of the Sir Max Aitken Pool until the fall of 2019. (Fredericton Diving Club)

The University of New Brunswick has offered to keep the Sir Max Aitken pool open for a year beyond its planned demolition date — if the City of Fredericton shares 60 per cent of the cost.

"While we know that only 16 per cent of users of the Sir Max Aitken are from UNB, we are prepared to pay more than our usage to help make this happen," said George MacLean, vice-president academic at the University of New Brunswick.

The university said it would cover 40 per cent of the net operational costs of keeping the pool open until September 2019. 

The university pool is the only competitive one in the area but has been scheduled for demolition this September.

"We hope that this offer of a one-year extension is helpful to the city, to the citizens of Fredericton and to the users who have enjoyed the Sir Max Aitken Pool for so long," MacLean said

Under UNB's proposal, the university's share of the total cost would be about $190,000. The city would pay about $300,000. 

Council to mull offer

"I'm thrilled they have made this offer," said Fredericton Deputy Mayor Kate Rogers.

"I know certainly the swim community is excited by this offer. We realize the importance of the swim community and those user groups. We just now have to balance that against some of our other responsibilities and accountabilities."

Rogers said the first chance for council to discuss the offer will be Monday. She said a possible sticking point could be ensuring non-resident fees and competitive user fees are part of an agreement.

"We can't ask Fredericton taxpayers to pay for non-residents, so we will also need that covered as well," Rogers said.

"Not at all insurmountable concerns. Just off the top of my head and not consulting with council, I would say they are concerns we've had all along."

Demolition

The university will still go ahead with decommissioning the Lady Beaverbrook Gymnasium, where the pool is located, to make way for construction of a new kinesiology building.

"This would be a partial decommission," said MacLean.

"The pool part of the facility would stay open, the court area would be blocked off and the west gym would be taken down." 

George MacLean, vice-president academic at the University of New Brunswick, says he still believes the campus is the best place to build an aquatics centre for the area. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

MacLean said the changes are contingent on an amendment to the current agreement the university has with federal and provincial funding partners.

"We would have to seek an amendment on that and we would have to seek approval from the city to be able to leave part of the building up," he said. 

City working on pool with Y

The UNB offer comes a day after the city announced it has been working on a partnership with the local YMCA to construct a new competitive pool, field house and multi-purpose centre for the region.

Talks with the YMCA began after the city stopped negotiating with UNB over a replacement for the Sir Max Aitken Pool on campus. At the time, the city said the two sides could not agree on how the costs of building and operating a new pool would be divided.

In a news release Wednesday, the city announced it intended to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Y to explore design, location and programming for a new aquatic centre.

"We congratulate the city for finding another partner and we are pleased there appears to be an opportunity for ongoing aquatics facilities in Fredericton," MacLean said.

"It was disappointing that it wasn't here. We still feel the best opportunity for an aquatics facility would be on campus … we're beginning to recognize that that's not going to take place." 

With files from Colin McPhail, Gary Moore, Catherine Harrop

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