Last chance to get aquatic facility we want
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As you may have read earlier this week in the Sun, the City of Brandon has issued a public notice that says it “is exploring preliminary options for the development of a new outdoor aquatic centre in Brandon.”
The notice goes on to say that “to make this outdoor aquatic centre a possibility, the city needs the public’s participation. A survey has been prepared in collaboration with MNP, which focuses on identifying several design features, including preferred amenities, location, and programming opportunities.”
There are three ways to complete the survey. You can do it online (https://bit.ly/3EpPNHH), you can complete it in person at city hall, the A.R. McDiarmid Civic Complex or the Sportsplex, or you can download it (https://bit.ly/3hDnQ63) and drop it off at any of those three locations.
The deadline for responses is Dec. 5. That will be followed by a public open house in early 2023 to share feedback received on the proposed design and location.
I have written in the past about the city’s need for a quality outdoor aquatic facility, and how embarrassing it is that communities far smaller than Brandon have far better facilities. After reading the survey, however, I’m beginning to rethink my position.
The survey is quite comprehensive. It asks respondents to select their top four aquatic amenities and rank them in order of preference. The amenities include an accessible beach or ramped entry, lazy river, waterslide(s), water play structure, obstacle course, diving boards, hot pool, spray pad/spray features, climbing wall, lap pool, shallow social pool/kiddie pool, and wading pool.
That’s quite a list, and it’s hard to choose just four. Frankly, I want them all because I have been in year-round facilities in other cities that have most, if not all, of them. For example, Elevation Place in Canmore, Alta., or the Big Marble Go Centre in Medicine Hat, Alta. Google those amazing indoor facilities and see the range of amenities and activities they offer.
And that’s the problem, as I see it: we are talking about building an outdoor aquatic centre that could really only be used for three months each year, yet it would have far better amenities than any indoor aquatic facility in the city.
We would be spending millions of dollars on a centre that might be used for 90 days per year (assuming the weather is perfect for an entire summer, which it never is), yet we would be doing nothing to provide those same aquatic recreation options for the other nine months, when people really want to get out of the cold and relax in a hot pool or float along a lazy river.
The more I think about it, the less sense this outdoor facility plan makes.
The survey asks lots of important questions, but one important question is missing: if you had to choose between having these amenities in an outdoor facility that was only open for three months of the year, or an indoor facility that was open year-round, what would your choice be?
I bet the overwhelming response would be that Brandonites want those features in an indoor facility they can visit all year long. If given the option, they would probably say they want both.
Maybe that’s the approach we should be taking. What if we created an indoor facility with all the great amenities that also had an outdoor component? They exist in other communities. What if, for example, it had massive (weather-proof and insulated) doors that could be opened on beautiful summer days, but kept closed throughout the winter? What if it had some sort of retractable roof?
Wouldn’t that be awesome? Wouldn’t that be the best of both worlds? Isn’t that worth at least considering?
At this point, you, and perhaps some folks at city hall, may be thinking that we have invested millions of dollars in the Sportsplex pool over the years and a new facility would mean all that money was wasted. My response would be that the Sportsplex is an old, unreliable facility that has never met the needs and expectations of the community. It will continue to suck millions of dollars well into the future, and there comes a point when it’s time to move on to something better.
Now is that time. This is our one chance to get this right. This is our one chance to have a facility that other communities will envy, instead of us being envious of them.
I encourage each of you to complete the survey before Dec. 5, but I especially urge you to use the space in response to question 11 (“Are there any additional comments or questions you would like to share?”) to tell city hall what we really want.
» Twitter: @deverynross