Should the new outdoor pool be 25 metres in length or 50 metres? That was the dilemma Moose Jaw City Council found themselves in Monday night. 

Representatives from the Kinsmen Flying Fins Swim Club presented to council to make their case for a 50-metre pool, which they currently have with the Phyllis Dewar pool. 

The current concept plan for the new outdoor pool that will replace the Phyllis Dewar Pool will be 25-metres. 

Flying Fins president Rick Johns explained that there are two competitive swim seasons: the short-course season and the long-course season. 

“It's really important to also understand that with a long course pool that's where all the major swimming events occur, such as the Man-Sask Interprovincials, the Western Canadian Championships, the Junior Championships, Olympic Trials, and World Olympics,” Johns said. 

Pool conceptAbove is the concept plan for a 25-metre outdoor pool to replace the Phyllis Dewar Pool. (Graphic courtesy: City of Moose Jaw)The short-course season generally takes place during the winter in a 25-metre pool, in which the Flying Fins utilize the Kinsmen Sportsplex pool. Summertime brings the long-course season which takes place in 50-metre pools. 

The Flying Fins hold one major long-course swimmer meet in June of each year. Their Summerfest meet (now known as the Mike Mintenko SummerFest) has been taking place for the past 50 years and is one of the more unique meets in Canada. 

“It's estimated that over 15,000 athletes have competed in SummerFest from all over North America. As one of the only long-course outdoor competitions offered in eight of 10 provinces, it has become one of the most popular meets in this in any other province,” Johns said. 

He noted that there are only three outdoor Olympic-sized pools left in Canada, and Moose Jaw is one of them. 

He added that SummerFest brings in about 200-250 swimmers from outside of Moose Jaw each year.  

“Just for everybody's interest, we have approximately 300 athletes per meet to the SummerFest every year,” Johns said.  

“Taking a conservative number of 200, those being from outside of Moose Jaw who bring their families and estimate spending approximately $500 in our hotels, restaurants, and businesses over the course of the weekend. That equates to about $100,000 per year invested into our community.” 

Other long-course meets in Saskatchewan take place in Swift Current, Saskatoon, and Regina. 

When asked how many meets other centres typically host, Johns said one to two meets each year is consistent with other communities. 

Director of Parks and Recreation Derek Blais said there are currently five 50-metre pools in Saskatchewan. However, he pointed to the fact that Swift Current have plans to replace their 50-metre pools with 25-metre pools and Prince Albert is currently designing a new 25-metre pool, which would just leave Saskatoon and Regina if Moose Jaw moves ahead with a 25-metre pool. 

Blais pointed to the cost of having a 50-metre pool as to why communities are moving away from the larger pool. 

The current concept plan would have the city paying $2.4 million for an eight-lane 25-metre pool, waterslide, 232 square metre leisure pool, and a splash pad. 

If the city decided to move to a 50-metre pool there would be two options. The first would include the pool, waterslide, and a small splash pad for an additional $2.7 million. The second option would eliminate the waterslide and make a bigger splash pad for an additional $2.5 million. A 50-metre pool would not leave room for the leisure pool in either option. 

Plans Revealed to Replace Outdoor Pool, Decommission Natatorium

After over 55 years in operation, plans were presented to city council on Monday night to replace the Phyllis Dewar Outdoor Pool and decouple it from the Natatorium. 

According to the report...

“Both options are projected to cost the city an additional $53,000 more to operate than the 25-metre option. So that's the annual operating costs,” Blais explained. 

He said the 25-metre pool concept plan is projected to bring in $61,000 in revenue and $123,000 in expense reduction compared to the current pool for a total savings of $184,000 per year. 

Blais explained why the small pool would bring in more revenue than a 50-metre pool. 

“If there was a leisure pool with interactive things that the kids like to do, it brings more people, brings more young families, so there's more revenue opportunity and having that community recreation facility than something that's basically just a pool basin,” he said. 

He added that the city talked to Swim Saskatchewan and the Flying Fins could still hold invitational short-course meets in the 25-metre pool, but long-course meets would not be possible. 

Putting a wrench into the whole conversation was the fact that the city needs $6.5 million in funding from the federal Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) in order to complete the project. With the city council meeting on Monday night, the application deadline was Tuesday at noon, so a decision needed to be made. 

Blais said it was last minute because they needed a concept plan and detailed budget for the application and that wasn’t available until late April, after city council’s April 25 meeting. 

In total, the replacement pool project will cost $8.9 million. City Manager Jim Puffalt, however, questioned whether the city should apply for the additional $2.5 million in case they decide to go with a 50-metre pool. 

“I'm just concerned that we may stand to lose a fair amount of money if we don't apply for the larger amounts. I think you can step down. It's harder to step back up to the 50 metres,” Puffalt said. 

This left a dilemma for city council. If they apply for the 25-metre funding and decide to switch course, the city would be on the hook for the additional $2.5 million. 

“So, I certainly appreciate that a leisure pool and, the slide and all that is more attractive to people. But at the same time, I don't want to lose events that bring in revenue both to restaurants and hotels and merchants in downtown Moose Jaw,” said Coun. Doug Blanc. 

Mayor Clive Tolley said he could justify the cost of the 50-metre pool if it was indoors and could be used year-round. He said the city missed the boat when the Kinsmen SportsPlex was built in 1996.  

Being on council during the planning stages of the Kinsmen SportsPlex, Tolley said he was in favour of a 50-metre pool then, but council rushed to the cheapest option. 

“Once you build the pool you can't go back. You can't change it, and it's not a good idea to take the cheaper road in many cases. But back in ’96 we took the cheaper road. If we had to build the 50 metre pool, we'd have it today and they could have their long course championships in an indoor facility,” Tolley said. 

Coun. Jamey Logan said city council couldn’t reverse course on the ICIP funding. The application needs to include a concept plan and a detailed budget. To ask for additional funding would mean the parks department would have to start all over again to include the 50-metre pool with less than a day to get the application in. 

“The report is based on a 25-metre in my opinion and no one wants to make a tough decision. I think, as much as the Fins are great and I feel bad we aren’t going to give them a 50-metre pool, businesswise the city can’t afford to run a 50-metre pool,” Logan said. 

Coun. Kim Robinson was the lone descending voice, feeling that city council wasted the Flying Fins time presenting for a 50-metre pool. 

“Eliminate the last 50-metre outdoor pool in Saskatchewan, I'm not so sure that's the right thing to do. Certainly, we call ourselves notorious, but it sounds to me like we're working for notoriously average,” Robinson said. 

City council approved the application to ICIP for $6.5 million by a vote of 5-1 with Robinson opposed and Coun. Crystal Froese was absent. The plan is to have the new pool in place and operational by July 1, 2025. 

 

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