Choosing an option was a no-brainer for the Salmon Arm Sockeyes.
An open house was held at the SASCU Recreation Centre on Feb. 10, where residents were given a look at two possible options for an upgraded municipal recreation facility.
Option A, at a cost of $35.7 milion, would include renovating and expanding the pool – but would also mean closing it for a year. This option would also include a new multi-purpose gym while converting the existing one into a performing arts space, as well as a new fitness centre. Option B, at $47 million, would include a new pool and fitness centre – but would not close the pool.
“As a swim club, you don’t want the pool to close for a year,” says Sockeyes president Darcy Calkins. “It’s hard to recover when people walk away.” She noted Penticton has spent three or four years rebuilding its swimming base after its pool was closed.
Both Calkins and Barry Healey, Shuswap Selkirks coach, expressed disappointment with both options.
“It’s not a bad starting point but I think both of the swim clubs were shocked there was not an eight-lane option,” she said. Last summer, the Sockeyes, a summer club, had 85 swimmers who would swim five times a week from May to August.
With six lanes, “36 to 48 kids in the pool at one time is all you can handle.”
Healey says building only six lanes “puts a nail in the coffin of sport tourism for the town.”
He said he’s frustrated because several groups, not just the swim clubs, have been advocating for years for a pool that could accommodate growth and bring revenue to town. He notes that hosting a youth games, provincial championships or seniors games could be huge for the area, and he sees the potential for a special olympics swim program, more school involvement, synchronized swimming, scuba diving and more.
He estimates the two youth swim clubs, combined with the masters club, invest $100,000 each year in the pool. Usually a facility would want to hang on to its major stakeholders, he says. If the clubs can’t host meets or events which bring in major income for them, he can see them eventually dissolving.
Mayor Alan Harrison, meanwhile, says the process is in its very early stages.
“Financially speaking, we’re building a new pool or retrofit in 2027… We threw out these two options as initial. They’re not set in stone in any way. Nor are the specifications for the pool,” he said. “We’re at a brainstorming session right now.”
Once the city has compiled a package that the community wants, he expects borrowing the money would go to referendum in 2024.