The worst fears of Flin Flon Aqua Centre users were confirmed by the City of Flin Flon. The facility will be permanently shut down due to structural concerns.
According to a news release issued Feb. 14 by the City of Flin Flon, an engineering review conducted by the City found “critical safety issues with the pool’s infrastructure that pose an imminent risk to employees and the public.”
The facility was closed Jan. 28 after the City received reports there were issues with the facility’s ceiling. Aqua Centre staff noticed a bow in part of the inner roof structure.
Council members held an emergency meeting Feb. 14 to discuss the findings of the engineering review and how the City should respond.
“Repairing the issues would require significant overhauls of the existing facility at substantial cost. Therefore, [city] council has made the decision to not reopen the Aqua Centre until a new facility has been built,” read the City news release.
“Council recognizes that the closure comes with little warning to residents who use the Aqua Centre and that the closure will have an impact on many of our community members. However, the seriousness of the issues means that for the safety of our residents and our staff we cannot continue to operate the facility.”
Photos taken inside of the centre show a pronounced bow in the building’s roof, showing a sag down the centre of the pool area lengthwise.
Once word of the shutdown spread, one came up from those who use the centre often – heartbroken.
“I’m devastated,” said Flin Flon city councillor Karen MacKinnon, a frequent Aqua Centre user. MacKinnon was part of the meeting where it was decided to shut the centre.
“We had no absolutely no choice in the matter. We had to shut it down.”
An engineer’s report is in the works, to be supplied to the City of Flin Flon and to city council.
“It’s a very sad day in Flin Flon,” added councillor Colleen McKee.
“I was there the day it opened. I was there the last day at synchro, coaching the next generation of swimmers.”
McKee grew up in Aspen Grove, located near the centre. Between her and her family, they have used the facility since its opening in 1975.
Engineers went inside the building for an assessment Feb. 14. McKee went with them.
“I think about our demographics, our senior population and our youth. We need that pool,” she said.
Some of the reactions ranged towards exasperation. Robert Kirschman, who used the Aqua Centre to train for triathlons and whose child took swimming lessons at the centre, said the news made him wonder what Flin Flon has to offer young families.
“People are going to start considering whether or not they want to raise their kids in a town with less and less to do,” he said.
“With the mine closure upcoming, I'm having serious doubts anything will ever get done.”
Kirschman said having a service like the Aqua Centre is an asset to the community and recreation facilities should be a part of Flin Flon’s future.
“It's not like we are a small town. We have 5,000 people. We should be able to have kids and access to recreation facilities."
Back in September, city council approved a measure to move toward building a replacement for the centre, utilizing federal and provincial grants to cover most of the cost.
“An application was submitted in September to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program requesting funding for a new Aqua Centre and recreational facility. Council will focus on seeking a positive result from the funding request in order to move the vision of a new recreational facility forward,” reads the City press release.
The facility will soon be blocked from public access. Discussions on possible decommissioning or demolition have yet to take place, along with how the City will deal with the status of pool employees.
It is unknown whether or not the funding will be approved or announced, but both McKee and MacKinnon are adamant the city needs a pool facility.
“The government keeps talking about looking north. I think it’s time to take a good look north,” McKee said.
“We need this pool. We are surrounded by lakes and creeks. We need to be heard and we need to be seen.”
“Hopefully, the provincial government and the federal government can provide the grant funding we need for the new one. Maybe they’ll see how critical funding is for our area.” said MacKinnon.
“We really need it. We need a new pool, for sure.”