Looking to cover part of the cost of the new Flin Flon Aqua Centre replacement, City officials have put together a package to pitch possible donors on the merits of the project.
At a recent Flin Flon Rotary Club meeting, City of Flin Flon officials and councillor Alison Dallas-Funk presented the City’s first attempt at pitching community groups on covering part of the project's funding through community contributions.
Construction at the pool site has already begun, with piles meant to support the rest of the pool’s build being driven into the earth at the future pool site. Next spring after the ground thaws and snow is gone, concrete and backfilling will start on the site and more pilings will be driven in. Once the base is finished, walls and the roof will be built.
Both the Manitoba and federal governments have previously pledged millions to the project, but along with that comes an expectation of community contribution - like other major community projects, including the building of the Flin Flon General Hospital emergency department in 2018, the Aqua Centre project includes a portion of the cost that must be covered through donations. Fundraising campaigns and events have raised hundreds of thousands for the pool already, but more money is still needed to fully cover the cost of the pool - the community contribution is estimated at just over $2 million. It’s that cost that the City’s new sales package is designed to help raise.
In the City’s new package, several different tiers of possible donations are listed, including approximate cash figures for everything running from lower levels to buying the naming rights to the building itself.
As of right now, with the closure of the Norplex pool in Thompson, northern Manitoba has one remaining regulation lap swimming pool - the Winton Pool in The Pas. City recreation director Caitlin Bailey said, in a region full of water like northern Manitoba, having a controlled place to hold swimming lessons and promote water safety is important to have.
“We’re surrounded by water. Obviously, the safety component of having a facility like this is incredibly important to our community, as well as the surrounding regions within Saskatchewan and Manitoba - we know we’ve got lakes, rivers and waterfront access everywhere and we want to make sure everyone is learning how to swim,” she said.
Having a pool, Bailey said, can also be an asset for the community that can help convince families and potential newcomers to move to Flin Flon, choosing it over other communities.
“We know that recreation facilities, leisure, sports, athletics, those are things that bring people in - they want to have their children to come in to swim, to have birthday parties, to have fun in the winter months. We want people to have a warm, bright, sunny location to spend those really cold winter days that we tend to have here in the north.”
Estimations from the City say that the pool, according to current plans, would cost just over $300,000 a year - more than $100,000 less per year than the former Aqua Centre cost to run, due in part to building with energy-efficient materials and not having to close for a month each year to repair the building or pool area, which was done for the last several years of the Aqua Centre’s existence.
One big question in the air about the pool regards the campaign trail promise by now-former Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson. During a campaign trail visit in Flin Flon last summer, Stefanson promised that, if elected, her Progressive Conservative (PC) party would cover $10 million in costs for a new pool. Stefanson and the PCs lost the election and now, whether or not the City would get that money remains in doubt.
City officials met with new provincial cabinet ministers last week in Brandon at an Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) meeting to make their case for funds for the project. The money promised by the former Premier, as she promised it, is not in the picture at the moment, but the City will continue pursuing grants for the project over the next year.
Getting the $10 million was not a make-or-break situation for the project, say senior staff, but it would mean far fewer costs for Flin Flon taxpayers.
“We’re planning for a final cost as high as $17.5 million, which includes a 20 per cent contingency. We did the budget for it without that $10 million because we didn’t know that announcement was going to be made, so we were able to figure out how we were going to pay for this,” said City chief administrative officer Lyn Brown.
“Part of it was the federal and provincial funding, which has already been allocated. There’s also now about $100,000 in interest on our investments on the pool money, because the province gave us their contribution a couple of years ago, so we’ve been investing it and making a little bit more money lately because interest rates and investment opportunities increased. We still want to chase that $10 million, we don’t want to let that slip out of our hands - we get it, we won’t have to debenture. Without the $10 million, we would have to borrow some money, but we do have it figured out without the 10. We want the 10.”