On Monday afternoon, Steve Langlois, of Monteith Brown Planning Consultants, delivered details of a feasibility study on the proposal to members of the community services committee. In looking at existing facilities in the city and how well there are used, Langlois said there are plenty of competitive and fitness swimming pools in the city, but a shortage of leisure and therapeutic pools.
If the city opts to build a $4.7 million facility in the Lionel E. Lalonde centre, it will likely draw users away from existing pools, some of which are already underused.
“Past studies have suggested that if the city is going to commit to building a new leisure pool, there should be a willingness to undertake considerable marketing (to a regional audience) and to consider the closure of an aging, under-performing aquatic facility,” the study concludes.
A therapeutic pool would be used by the city's fast-growing population of seniors for physical therapy and rehabilitation. The pools are about four feet deep, warm – 33-35 C – and are fully accessible to a wider range of groups than traditional facilities. Children and adults could also use it for therapy, and the consultants report recommends expanding it so it's also a leisure pool.
While increasing construction and operating costs, making it a leisure pools as well would increase its size and capacity – from 25 to 75 people -- and would attract a broader range of users.
“In about 10 years, one out of three out of your residents will be over the age of 55,” Langlois said. “So this is something that a lot of municipalities are getting into … It speaks to an aging population, not just in Sudbury, but North America, for that matter.”
But Ward 11 Coun. Terry Kett was concerned with the part of the report that called for a review of existing municipal pools if a new one is built.
“Why would this be included in the recommendations?” Kett asked.
Langlois said their study found some current pools in the city are underused, so adding more capacity would make reviewing existing facilities a logical next step.
“The concern is, by adding aquatic (facilities), there will be implications on existing pools,” he said. “Just to be sure there is some rationalization of your existing operations, because they are costly facilities.”
Ward 1 Coun. Joe Cimino said closing a community pool would be a major blow for residents in the affected area.
“Pools are very important to a community,” Cimino said. “I would never, for example, support Gatchell Pool closing.”
Ward 4 Coun. Evelyn Dutrisac, who has been fighting for years to get the pool built in Azilda, said she understands very well how important pools are to a community.
“As Coun. Cimino said, to take a pool from one area is very hard,” she said. “But people in Rayside-Balfour have wanted a pool in that area for years and years and years … I hope that no pools get closed, and that we add one in the Lionel Lalonde Centre.”
She could have filled council chambers with supporters of the plan, she said, but brought a smaller crowd with her, which filled the much smaller committee room at Tom Davies Square.
“I firmly believe that a therapeutic pool is extremely important, as our community is getting on in age,” she said. “Not only seniors would use a therapeutic pools, but children and adults.”
However, as an unfunded project, Dutrisac admitted there is a long way to go before it becomes a reality. But they have done it before, she added.
“We raised $6 million to help St. Gabriel's be(Villa) built in our community,” she said, turning to her fundraising “partner,” Ward 3 Coun. Claude Berthiaume. “The work is just beginning.”
Public consultations are scheduled in May, with a report due back to council likely in June.