In this April 2011 photo, Mayor Shari Decter Hirst comments during an announcement that the province is spending $500,000 — with the city matching those funds — to refurbish the Sportsplex pool as part of Brandon’s efforts to land the 2017 Canada Summer Games. The bid ultimately failed, in part because the pool was deemed to be below national standards. At rear, from left: Swim Manitoba’s Darin Muma, Brandon Bluefins’ Darcy Smith, Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell and Premier Greg Selinger.
A recent audit of the Sportsplex pool has outlined the need to upgrade its mechanical systems to meet current Manitoba Health code requirements.
Council approved a recommendation last night to secure engineering services to begin the first step in the pool’s redevelopment at a cost of $286,300.
"To keep the Sportsplex pool open, we’ve been given directives from Manitoba Health that there’s certain things that we have to upgrade," said Jeff Elliott, Sportsplex facility manager. "Water quality is the first item, the second is the pool air quality. There are new health codes regarding air quality so that’s something that really came to light later on."
The recommendation council approved is to secure MCW/AGE Professional Engineers to prepare the mechanical drawings and specifications required to go out for tender.
Elliott provided a report to council following the 2013 audit. He said the best course of action, as agreed upon by the City of Brandon, Manitoba Health and the design engineering firm, is to replace the pool water circulation system, the pool air handling unit, tile the pool tank, install grating over the irregular pool edge and replace the bulkhead.
Elliott said in his report that the project "must move forward in a timely manner" for Manitoba Health to continue to support the operation of the Sportsplex pool.
In a letter to mayor and council, dated Dec. 6, 2013, Manitoba Health regional manager Stéfane Gravelle wrote that the department has noted water treatment and maintenance issues for some time.
"However, we have not required those upgrades to be undertaken because the future of the pool was undecided," states the letter.
Now that it has been decided the facility will remain open, the city is expected to move forward in resolving issues. In 2011, city council passed a resolution to continue operating the Sportsplex. The facility was built in 1978 to host the 1979 Canada Winter Games.
"Manitoba Health is very happy with the way we run our facility right now," Elliott said. "It is an old system so we’re mandated to monitor it closely and that’s fine, we can do that."
Elliott stressed that there are no health concerns, as they submit monthly water samples.
"(Manitoba Health) is watching us very, very closely and that’s a good thing," he said.
Some of the issues outlined in the Manitoba Health letter include the fact that there is degraded water quality because of the aging infrastructure and a lack of sufficient water recirculation, treatment and air ventilation rates; the current system can only maintain compliance with provincial disinfection standards approximately 25 per cent of the time; upgrades to the mechanical water and air handling systems are necessary to successfully resolve the violations and maintain the facility in a safe and satisfactory manner; and aging, damaged and/or deteriorating components of the basin need replacement.
The city is required to submit an upgrade plan to Manitoba Health no later than May 1. Once the current operating permit expires on May 31, new restrictions will be put in place at the Sportsplex.
"(The letter) did outline some very restrictive operating guidelines," Elliott said. "This is showing that they are expecting the city to move forward, and do all the upgrades."
Restrictions include: maximum bather load reduced from 355 to 200 persons, daily operating hours reduced from 16 to 10, water chemistry testing increased from one to two times per day to every two hours during hours of operation, among a few others.
Councillors discussed the need to seek provincial funding for the project, as it is a regional recreation facility.
Last month, council requested an update on the Sportsplex pool usage since the new Dood Cristall Family YMCA opened. According to the Sportsplex, they have seen growth in several programs, while showing a decrease in public swim attendance.
"Overall this report determined that the demand for aquatic space in Brandon is very strong and will support two pool facilities to serve the community and surrounding catchment area," Elliott wrote in his report.
The estimated cost for total upgrades is $2.7 million.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 21, 2014