What could a future Flin Flon Aqua Centre look like? Where will it be built? When will it open? Firm answers to any of those questions are not 100 per cent certified, but statements from City leadership are providing hints.
For starters, city council members have mentioned the Kindersley Aquatic Centre in Kindersley, Sask. as a model for what could come next for Flin Flon.
According to the Town of Kindersley’s website, construction on the Aquatic Centre began in July 2017 - it opened just under two years later, in June 2019. The facility is about 21,000 square feet in size and has a six-lane junior Olympic sized pool, two diving boards, a 2,500 square foot leisure pool, a hot tub, rock climbing wall, party rooms, an outdoor patio, a lazy river and a 150-foot waterslide. Construction of the Kindersley complex began just over three years after the town’s previous pool was shut down - much like the Aqua Centre, due to structural issues. It took about $6.6 million to build the centre.
When asked at the July 20 meeting of city council about the plan, Mayor Cal Huntley said building off an existing plan will also give the City insight into operating and construction cost and build on what has and hasn’t worked elsewhere.
“It’s a cookie-cutter plan. It’s made it easy for us - it had everything we wanted. We didn’t have to reinvent the wheel, do any kind of reinventing the engineering, all that kind of stuff. We’re pretty comfortable that we’ll be in good shape,” said the mayor.
In the recent City budget, $400,000 was to fund site explorations for the pool - part of the process of applying for the ICIP funding. The City had to prepare five possible sites for where an Aqua Centre replacement could be built. One of those areas was the former Aqua Centre site near Ross Creek, but that site may not be large enough for the City’s building plans or may be used for a possible seniors’ housing development.
The leading site, as of press time, is the former Willowvale Curling Club site, located only two blocks away from the former pool. Plans for the exact location have not been finalized, but Huntley said the Willowvale plan - which will likely include building over or demolishing the wading pool at Willowvale Park - is the frontrunner.
“The primary site that we’re looking at right now would be the existing wading pool and curling club that used to be in that area, but we need to determine that the geology doesn’t become exorbitant,” said Huntley.
“That’s our primary site at this point and was listed on the application… that’s the only one we’re talking about right now.”
With plans afoot and money now in place, the City has more steps that must be taken before opening a pool - namely, construction.
The process of building a pool will start with hiring a project manager for the Aqua Centre replacement, analyzing sites, tailoring the specific pool design to the site, engineering assessments and other work. After plans are fully drawn up, the City will tender the project to interested builders.
‘With the funding, we will be moving into a multi phase plan. It is our highest priority to have patrons in the pool as soon as we possibly can,” Huntley said in a July 21 public announcement, a day after the plans were first announced by the province and the feds.
“This process will result in an aqua center the entire community can be proud of for many years to come.”
No official timeline for the Aqua Centre design or construction was announced by council, but Huntley said in the announcement that similar projects have taken 18 to 24 months to build - not including design and engineering time.
“We’ll probably run in that area, but I wouldn’t want to commit to anything,” Huntley said.
The idea of an Aqua Centre replacement has been a thorny political issue for Flin Flon in recent years, with some community members concerned over the cost of a pool project when Hudbay plans to shut down most mine activity in the community within the next year. About $4.6 million of the City’s $12.2 million 2021-22 budget came in the form of grants-in-lieu, paid almost exclusively by Hudbay.
In Sept. 2019, Flin Flon city council approved a plan to spend $8.8 million, most of which would involve money from provincial and federal grants, to build a new Aqua Centre facility and authorized the City to borrow $1.8 million to ease the path to making the plan work. About $300,000 has been raised by the Aqua Centre Community Committee, with another $254,000 coming from the City’s share of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) fund. The City may also try to pursue corporate sponsorship or naming deals for the pool to add cash to the piggy bank or to cover any budget gaps, but no deals have been announced yet.
Huntley said room in the City’s budget had to be assured as part of the ICIP grant presentation, saying the numbers work for building a new pool.
“Before we did the presentation, we had to make sure that we had enough room in the budget to go forward with a capital project like that. Certainly the previous chief administrative officer [Glenna Daschuk] and Nicole [Hartman] and Lyn [Brown] did a lot of work to make sure this was a viable project for the City of Flin Flon,” he said.
“There’s not a huge impact to the City budget, from the aspects of capital. We had room. We had freed up some debt room regarding the wastewater treatment plant… we have to be able to carry the debt, like a mortgage, and we were in a position where we could do that when we made the application.”