City devotes millions to building Aqua Centre replacement

$8.8 million total price tag, City plans to foot $2.4 million of bill

The City of Flin Flon is moving forward on building a replacement for the Flin Flon Aqua Centre - and council plans to dive deep into its pockets to do it.

City councillors approved a number of measures at the Sept. 3 meeting relating to finding money to build a new Aqua Centre. Councillors said the current plan for the new centre would include a total price tag of around $8.8 million.

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In total, city council committed $2,358,485.50 to the construction of a new Aqua Centre on a separate site to the existing swimming facility. Council authorized borrowing just over $1.8 million to provide the majority of the funding, with the rest coming from the city’s share of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) fund ($254,000 in total) and from funds raised by the Aqua Centre Community Committee, covering about $300,000.

To help cover the over $6 million in funding remaining, the City has applied to the federal government’s Investing in Canada Plan for grant funding through the program’s Community, Culture and Recreation stream. Through the program, both federal and provincial governments have agreed to provide more than $1.1 billion until 2028 to be used for infrastructure projects.

“If we are successful in obtaining the grant, if we get the monies that we need, then our requirement with be $2,358,485.50 - $1.8 [million] of that we will borrow. There will be a fundraising commitment as well,” said councillor Colleen McKee.

“This is one of the initiatives that were identified in the strategic time as very important. Given the upcoming change in our debt load and a different approach to looking at the Aqua Center as a package more than a design built specifically for Flin Flon, we believe we've reduced the costs. The possibility of doing that is very real,” said Mayor Cal Huntley.

The current Aqua Centre was built in 1970 and has required a series of annual renovations to continue operations. The exact site being looked at by the city for the new Aqua Centre is unknown.

“We’ve come so far since 1970. You can actually get at the pipes and work on them with this. Longevity should be significant,” said Huntley.

In the application sent by the City, the current location of the Aqua Centre is on Ash Crescent is listed as the tentative location for the project, but Huntley confirmed the city is looking at multiple areas for building.

“We’re looking at two or three different sites. It’s going to be a separate facility,” he said.

Over the past three years, the Aqua Centre Community Committee has proposed a number of possible options for a new pool, most involving refurbishing the existing Aqua Centre building. The price ranges for the proposals ranged from just over $1 million in funding to some requiring more than $16 million to build.

“To renovate the one that sits there would probably cost just as much as building a new one, maybe even more,” said McKee.

Huntley mentioned the new Aquatic Centre in Kindersley, Sask. as a model to base the upcoming Aqua Centre project on. Opened in summer 2017, the Kindersley Aquatic Centre includes a six lane Olympic-size pool, a 230 square metre leisure pool, a 45 metre long waterslide and a hot tub that can fit 20 people.

“Until you get the funding, you’re not going to know exactly what you’ll be able to do,” said Huntley, while acknowledging the Kindersley centre was a model looked at by council in preparing a proposal.

“It’s recently built and recently open, it seems to contain pretty much everything that we would like - other than our rec group has said they don’t want a hot tub.”

McKee said she expects to see opposition from some members of the public toward making a multi-million dollar investment in recreation. 

“I feel like there are going to be people who aren’t going to support this because not everybody uses the Aqua Centre. I always think of my grandfather, who’s from Melfort. When they built their indoor pool, there was an uproar in the community because people just didn’t think it was a necessity - ‘Why is council spending all this money?’” she said.

“I’m telling you, people come from all over the place and stay in Melfort to use that pool. We can use it for tourism, we can use it for teaching, we can use it for rehabilitation with the [Northern Health Region]. We need an Aqua Centre.”

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