The City of St. Albert has announced the extended closure of Fountain Park pool is anticipated to end by summer 2023.
The closure for life cycle repairs, including the replacement of the facility’s primary air-handling system, began in May. Earlier in August, the city announced the closure would not conclude in September as previously planned. Instead, damage found on the underside of a concrete slab supporting both the leisure and competition pools would mean extending the closure until 2023.
At that time, the city did not yet have a timeline for the updated closure, or know whether the facility would still need to close for a second round of life cycle repairs in 2024, as was announced in May.
In a Sept. 9 update, the city announced the new anticipated closure length, and said the 2024 life cycle work will take place simultaneously, meaning a second facility closure will not be needed.
The city said combining the repair work will result in cost savings of around $500,000 and “nine weeks less of overall impact to the facility” than the previously planned two closures.
In addition to addressing the newly discovered concrete slab damage, subsequent work will focus on new paint and tile replacement, and upgrades centring on improving accessibility, the Sept. 9 release said.
Accessibility improvements include existing ramps, updating lighting, and change room upgrades that will add new toilets, sinks, and showers, as well as accessible bathroom stalls.
Alain Casavant, registrar and acting vice-president for the St. Albert Sailfish Club, raised questions about the length of the closure and whether the 2024 repairs could be included simultaneously when the extended closure was first announced.
In an email Monday, Casavant said he is “heartened” to see the additional work included in ongoing repairs.
“As for the impact on our swim season which begins in May, we have begun the work of seeking alternate pool space other than Fountain Park,” Casavant said.
Other projects delayed: city
While the cost for the repairs was initially estimated at $10.5 million, the new cost puts those estimates higher at around $17.4 million.
“Costs for the project have been maintained within the current approved funding through re-sequencing of projects in other facilities slated for 2023,” city-spokesperson Marci Ng said in an email.
When asked what projects have been delayed, city manager of corporate communications Cory Sinclair said the city has re-sequenced life cycle repairs to St. Albert Place, where the city is still looking into what repairs will be needed.
"Without finalized requirements for St. Albert Place, it allowed for currently approved funds to be dedicated to this project to meet the needs of the accelerated schedule while requirements at St. Albert Place are being investigated further," Sinclair said in an email.
Ng said city administration does not have to come before council prior to proceeding with the adjusted repairs because the adjustments focus on the time when repairs are happening, rather than a change to the scope of repairs required.
Swim spots scarce
Last week, The Gazette reported swimming registration for fall classes at Servus Place had filled up within an hour after opening, shocking parents who had hoped to secure lesson spots for their children.
Esmahan Abdallah, another parent who had tried to register her children in swim lessons that morning but ultimately could not, said as a woman of colour she especially wanted to get her children in swimming classes.
“Swimming is something that most black and brown people struggle with,” Abdallah said, noting reasons could be both cultural and financial. “Getting kids from these backgrounds in a marginalized community is very important.”
Originally living in Edmonton, Abdallah said she had heard of how difficult it would be to register her children in swimming lessons, even before Fountain Park pool had closed.
The morning that swim class registration opened for St. Albert residents, Abdallah said she went to register at 7:50 a.m., but the number of people who flooded the system meant a few minutes later at 8:05 a.m. the classes had been filled up.
“It’s like the new lottery,” Abdallah said, adding the prohibitive cost of private lessons means her children will likely be missing out on swimming lessons this fall.
Abdallah noted St. Albert’s population has grown with several young families, but the services haven’t increased to accommodate them.
“The infrastructure is not helping,” Abdallah said.
Ng said by email city administration is still in the process of engaging with regional partners in pursuit of additional swim space.
“Like St. Albert, most available aquatic space in other regional aquatic facilities is in high demand and is typically already committed to respective programs,” Ng said in the email.
“Once Fountain Park Recreation Centre is open in 2023, we look forward to offering a full complement of aquatics opportunities again in a fully revitalized building. We know this facility closure is challenging and we appreciate the community’s patience.”