City councillor, residents want upgrades to Windsor Water World
Money earmarked for upgrades spent on Adie Knox Herman Recreation Complex
The sign on the Windsor Water World building on Wyandotte Street East illustrates the issue: The "d" in world is missing, so it reads, "Windsor Water Worl."
The community centre in the southwestern Ontario city is in need of upgrades, with money set aside 10 years ago when the pool was closed as part of the plan for the downtown aquatic centre.
Ward 3 Coun. Rino Bortolin says most of that $3 million is already going to be spent on the Adie Knox Herman Recreation Centre as part of a $42-million upgrade. He says if the city can spend $42 million on Adie Knox — one of the other properties the city promised to upgrade — it can spend money on Water World to help the community.
"Realistically, it'll probably cost between five and 10 million to do the necessary work. But at that point, we're making a long-term commitment for a community centre to stay in that neighborhood," said Bortolin.
Mehari Hagos, who used to run his MH100 program out of the building, agrees. He helped attract thousands of dollars in grant money to put a weight room and other amenities in the building.
"We don't have it. It got turned into a homeless shelter," said Hagos, adding the children have been shuttled aside in favour of the shelter the city set up in the building last year due to the pandemic.
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"Investing in the community, as in building a homework room for the kids, building a workout room for the kids, renovating the basketball court for the kids, cleaning up that area for the kids," are needed, said Hagos, who is concerned about the proliferation of crime and drug use in the area since the homeless shelter opened.
Mercy Abebe, who lives in Thomson Tower next to Water World, says it's unsafe for children to play outside in Fred Thomas Park because of drug users and other people who now hang around there. She would also like to see money spent, "something that would revive downtown."
"I would like it to be something that would turn this area into something beautiful."
'Hagos now runs his youth programs out of the Constable John Atkinson Memorial Community Centre, and also drives around to different neighbourhoods with workout equipment to help children who have been locked down for months.
'We need to commit'
Bortolin says input he has received from the community includes wanting a rock climbing wall, community rooms, improvements to the gym and the basketball court.
"And we need to start having those conversations if we want to have public partnerships with other organizations, say, if the YMCA wanted to come into the downtown core again to offer those programs. We can look at those scenarios, but one way or another, we need to commit and we need to put the money down to say that we're going to refurbish this community centre," said Bortolin, who also agrees the shelter for people experiencing homelessness should be moved.
He will push for money for Water World at budget time.