'Like keeping an old car on the road': high costs will see two Calgary pools close
The City of Calgary has issued public notices regarding the slated closures of a community pool in Inglewood and another in the Beltline by the end of the year.
Both the Beltline Aquatic and Fitness Centre on 12th Ave. S.W. and the Inglewood Aquatic Centre on 17th Ave. S.E. are scheduled to close on Jan. 1, 2020.
Both facilities released a statement on their respective websites.
“The age and condition of this facility no longer meet current service level expectations and changing citizen preferences have resulted in limited and declining participation,” the statement read.
Last month, Calgary city council made the decision to close two un-named aquatic facilities by the end of the year as part of $60 million in budget cuts.
The decision was made to allow time for consultation with the affected communities.
It’s a move that’s not being taken lightly by the more than 1,000 people who have signed an online petition and launched the social media hashtag #SaveYYCPools.
Naomi Whithers, communications director with the Inglewood Community Association, is well aware of the campaign and says her community will continue to rally support with a neighbourhood pool party scheduled for Aug. 25.
Whithers added her community group will also meet with city staff to discuss some potential options to keep the pool open.
“If the pool was to be renovated with amenities increased, like a hot tub and fitness area, we think we could bring a lot more people here,” said Whithers.
“We’re trying to get people to use the pool, come out, we’re doing the advertising for the pool, sharing the schedules and we think that if there’s more awareness for the pool we can actual get more users.”
However, it’s not just community members that rely on the Inglewood facility.
A number of other groups also utilize the pool, including Special Olympics Calgary
Sport and program manager, Karen Hurley, says Special Olympics athletes rely heavily on the Inglewood pool for practices and other events.
“If it closes, the 60 athletes that are in our program would have their program itself cut by one third, so they wouldn’t have a chance to participate in the upcoming qualifier for provincial games,” she said.
“If we don’t find another facility, then the program will no longer run.”
Ward 9 Coun. Gian Carlo-Carra told CTV News he dreaded the decision to close the Inglewood pool. He says it’s a situation he has seen develop in the community for a couple of years.
“We rolled up our sleeves and did a lot of work to improve the efficiencies in the facility and drive users to it to reduce the per-user subsidy,” he said.
Carra adds the Inglewood pool costs the city $250,000 each year. He notes that for every $6 someone pays for entry at that pool, the taxpayers and the city pay an additional $10 in subsidies.
“It’s kind of like keeping an old car on the road,” Carra said.
“This is an old beater, a 70-year-old asset that started as an outdoor pool and is very expensive to run and at a certain point a mechanic is going to look you in the eye and say, ‘I can’t take your money anymore, it’s time to get a new car.’”
Carra and the city maintain that funding for both Inglewood and Beltline pools will be in place until the end of the year. There will be no changes to the hours of operation until either facility closes on Jan. 1, 2020.
Fall recreation classes and bookings will also stay in place until the end of 2019. As a result, the city has recommended swimmers use the next closest pool, which is the Renfrew Aquatic Centre.
For now, the city says it will continue to consult with the Inglewood and Beltine community groups until the end of the year to determine whether or not either facility is salvageable.
“I’m open to anything and everything, said Carra.