When she was elected mayor, Shari Decter Hirst promised to keep the Sportsplex pool open.
It was a major plank in her campaign and she has certainly kept that promise.
At the time of the 2010 election, then-mayor Dave Burgess said that closure of the pool had already been on the table for three years, and at one point the outgoing council voted to close it and move on.
That decision, of course, was reversed and the Sportsplex remains open today — except for the regular occasions when it is shut down to repair mechanical malfunctions.
In the 2014 budget, the city plans to spend $1.8 million on yet another refurbishing of the aged pool complex.
We believe that money would be better spent filling it with cement and turning the space into an indoor fieldhouse.
This city has a growing demand for an indoor facility catering to soccer, cricket and other similar sports. Without the complex piping, pumping and heating requirements of a pool, and without caustic chlorine fumes and water everywhere, even the deteriorating Sportsplex pool space would make an excellent candidate for a much-needed fieldhouse.
Brandon is a large enough city, serving a large enough region, that we still need a full-size swimming pool. It’s quite obvious that the Sportsplex, despite its pedigree, no longer measures up to national standards. If it did, we would be gearing up to host the Canada Summer Games in 2017.
At least two councillors in the city of Red Deer, which will be hosting the Canada Winter Games in 2019, have floated the idea of that city building a new aquatic centre in time for their Games. The Red Deer Advocate reported in November that the price tag for a full aquatic centre in Red Deer was estimated at about $75 million, which would include four swimming spaces at $18 million each, plus a splash park, dive tanks and wave rider. The city has formed a committee to further explore the idea, which has been on the radar since 2010.
While the Winter Games do not require a swimming pool, those in Red Deer believe that the time is ripe to latch on to sponsorship and grant opportunities for sports of all seasons.
Not so in Brandon, where we blew our chance to leverage Canada Games momentum by gambling on a take-it-or-leave-it bid. The Games committee decided to leave it.
Brandon also lost out on partnerships with the YMCA, or with the YMCA and Brandon University, in building a multi-purpose community facility that would have included a full-size pool. Those two organizations have already built separate, smaller buildings to suit their own needs. The Dood Cristall Brandon Family YMCA is a fine structure, and we are glad to have it near our own offices, but its pool is too small to be the only one in Brandon.
The university decided to eschew a pool altogether in its Healthy Living Centre.
So city taxpayers must shoulder this burden themselves.
We are fine with the city subsidizing recreational facilities to a certain extent, but it has come to the point where any future repairs or funding to the Sportsplex pool are simply throwing good money after bad.
The Sportsplex has been a big part of Brandon for three-and-a-half decades. It’s unfortunate that it was built too small, too quickly and too cheaply back in the 1970s, but robbing future Peter to pay current Paul is a mistake that this city seems willing to make over and over again.
It is long past time for a new pool in Brandon — a 50-metre pool that meets national standards and is something we can be proud of for the next few decades.
We appreciate that Mayor Shari Decter Hirst has kept her electoral promise. She kept the pool open three extra years.
But now it’s time to pull the plug.