A competitive swim club in Maple Ridge expects the closure of the Leisure Centre to be devastating for membership.
Angela Downey, director of water polo with the Haney Neptunes Aquatic Club, said her group was disappointed to learn about the urgent need for closure.
The city announced in early March that it will shut down the Leisure Centre pools for up to 13 months, to undergo a retrofit that will cost an estimated $7 million.
“We’re trying to find other avenues to continue to run our club,” Downey said.
The pool closure is scheduled for the end of August, which will give the Neptunes one last summer season before what could be a long layoff.
“We’re devastated. We know the pool needs to be fixed, but thought there might have been another way.”
The Neptunes are a summer swim club, meaning they do maintenance swimming during the winter, then train intensely and compete during the summer months. The club also has water polo and synchro teams.
The Leisure Centre is also home to the Haney Seahorses, whose competitive season runs during the winter months.
The city has said it will help pool users find time in pools in neighbouring cities, but Downey said there is not a big surplus of pool time.
“They will look in other communities, but other communities are full, as well,” she said. “Everything is up in the air.”
She said increased travel time and bridge tolls will discourage some parents from keeping their kids in competitive swimming or water polo. The tolls are like an additional $6 charge on every practice.
Downey fears members of the Neptunes will simply leave the club, and join swim teams in neighbouring cities. Unlike some sports, such as minor hockey, competitive swimmers can register in any club they like.
“It’s unlikely the Neptunes or Seahorses will get them back, once they make a commitment to another club,” said Neptunes president Jim Baxter.
So the Neptunes are trying to keep their programs running outside of their home pool, he said.
“We’re piecing together whatever we can,” he added. “This is going to hurt our club a lot.”
He said the idea that local clubs can continue training in the Hammond outdoor pool during the summer doesn’t come from anyone with a background in competitive swimming.
“It’s too small. It’s a public pool for kids to go cool off in,” asserts Baxter.
He said there are about 250 kids involved in swimming, water polo and synchro between the two clubs.
Baxter said if minor hockey or soccer had to shut down for over a year, “the uproar would be deafening.”
The pool closure came in the year the Neptunes will celebrate 60 years in Maple Ridge, he added.
Coun. Kiersten Duncan, who works as an aquatic team leader in Port Coquitlam, said council tried to put off the work on the Leisure Centre pool until a planned new aquatic centre could be built. But approximately a year after making that decision, staff came back and said the demand was urgent.
“Our challenge is the facility is old, and in need of repairs,” she said. “Unfortunately, there is going to be an impact, no matter what we do.”
She said numerous programs will be looking to relocate, from seniors water aerobics to baby aquatics and youth swimming lessons. And she said recreation staff will be helping these groups find time in pools in neighbouring cities.
The Neptunes also want competitive swimmers to be considered when the new pool is built. Early proposals are for the main pool to be six lanes, 25 metres long, with access ramps.
“You’ve got that already,” said Baxter.
The club would like to see an eight-lane pool, so it can run large swim meets, such as the provincials, and ideally would have 50m lanes.
“Have a competition pool for the swim clubs,” Downey added.
The city is proposing a $70 million new aquatic centre, but plans are not final.
“We’re still in the design process,” Duncan said. “We’re still looking into options.”
Heather Anderson, who does communications for one of the Neptunes, said she has seen some amazing facilities in the Lower Mainland. She said members of council should tour Surrey’s newest pool, Grandview Heights. It boasts a 10-lane, 50m Olympic size competition pool with seating for up to 900, a lifestyle pool with a lazy river, 10m diving tower, waterslide, hot tubs, steam room and more.
It cost $55 million to build.