Downsized pool at new community centre needs bigger splash for Oshawa aquatic users – swim club

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Published April 8, 2024 at 4:47 pm

The Oshawa Aquatic Club wants the City of Oshawa to make a bigger splash with the swimming pool component of the proposed community centre in the Northwood Business Park in north-west Oshawa, saying the revised four-lane pool will be “oversubscribed” in less than five years.

The City was worried that spiralling costs would “doom” the community centre, with an original estimate of $162 million ballooning to $250 million before the decision was made to shave a few extras and downgrade a few key components – including the pool, which was recommended for eight lanes – to make the project more palatable to taxpayers.

The revised project, which was approved in principle last week, had about $100 million trimmed off the ‘wish list’ estimate and nearly $60 million off the proposal given the green light last fall, with a reduction in lanes for the pool from eight to four contributing to a big chunk of the savings.

The club, in a letter to council, said there is “pent-up demand” for “exceedingly popular” swim lessons and a four-lane pool just won’t cut it. “An eight-lane pool will accommodate future needs where a four-lane pool will be oversubscribed in less than five years with lessons alone,” said Oshawa Aquatic Club President Julie Reid.

The club had no issues with Council re-visiting the design concept for the community centre to bring forward a more “fiscally responsible” alternative design. “This is understandable from a taxpayer perspective as the quotations for the original design program came in at $250 million,” the club said in the letter.

But the pool shouldn’t have been the area to carve out those savings, Reid contends.

Monteith Brown Planning Consultants, who worked on the community centre project, recommended an eight-lane pool and Reid noted the firm is “very reputable” and ‘they are seldom inaccurate in their recommendations.”

Returning the pool back to eight lanes will cost the City an extra $966,000 – barely half a per cent of the total cost – and will translate to $4 million per lane to build, instead of $7.8 million per lane for the four-lane pool, she said.

Very few municipalities build four-lane pools anymore, especially communities the size of Oshawa, she noted. “Brampton did build a couple in the 1970s and quickly abandoned the concept due to complaints of overcrowding and the inability to accommodate adequate lessons sets.”

The club pointed to a report from the Aquatic Sport Council of Ontario that showed that an eight-lane sport-friendly pool will accommodate more lessons and reduce the net deficit costs as a result, particularly with the 60-year lifespan of the facility.

“Taking a business-minded approach, would you rather construct a superior facility that will accommodate future growth for $1 million more than an inferior style of pool that will be overcrowded soon after opening? Reid said. “Please think hard about this; it honestly does not make any sense to the taxpayer.”

The club also wants Council to “consider why they are treating north Oshawa residents inequitably in building a smaller pool than any other in the community.”

Reid also pointed out the Oshawa Aquatic Club is growing has enjoyed a bit of “unprecedented” success lately, with seven swimmers at the national level and two swimmers qualifying for Olympic trials.

“We would like to attract a greater number of swimmers from north Oshawa so that they can swim locally. A four-lane pool with zero depth will not be sufficient.”

“We would ask that you do this once and do it right.”

Council voted by a 9-1 vote to proceed with the original scope of work, with the swimming pool footprint reduced and a few other “fiscally responsible” modifications, including scaling the building from about 150,000 sq. ft to 100,000 sq. ft.

‘Adjustments’ made to the design to bring the cost down to a more manageable number – Safety and Facilities committee Chair Brian Nicholson (who was praised for his efforts in reducing the scope and cost of the project) called the $209 million approved in November “untenable.”

Some of those adjustments include:

  • The ‘bodies of water’ for the swimming lanes, leisure swim area and potential water slide will be reduced to one and the and the hot tub/sauna components will be removed
  • The size of the library will be reduced, making it compatible with Delpark Homes Library
  • The common space and the gymnasium will both be cut back a bit and the weight room/fitness area will be shrunk in size
  • “Significant” efficiencies in HVAC, electrical and mechanical requirements through these and other modifications

The revised concept will now include an aquatic centre; a 10,000 sq. ft. library; an Oshawa Seniors Centre branch; an 8,000 sq. ft. multi-purpose gymnasium and indoor track; and outdoor amenities, including a baseball diamond, soccer pitch, pickleball and basketball courts, a splash pad and junior playground area and an area that can be used for events such as a farmers’ market.

The design will also allow for expansion if the need arises in the future.

Councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri, who ward contains the future community centre, said he had been hearing from his constituents on why, with “so many people” moving into the Windfields area the community did not have a recreation centre, said the City needs to act now or costs will climb even higher.

“If we don’t move forward with this we’ll never move forward, with all the escalating cost,” he said at last week’s Council meeting, calling the future community centre a “flagship” facility.

The new community centre, which will be located at Thornton Road North and the future Britannia Avenue West extension, between Winchester Road/Highway 407 to the north and Conlin Road to the south, will be a multi-use, multi-generational and multi-seasonal destination, regardless of its final design.

It is expected to take about a year for staff to produce revised concept designs and tender documents, with the construction timeline of at least 18 months.

 

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