Should city council decide to delay the opening of the Penticton Community Centre pool until September, it will be risking more than just the excitement of residents hoping to use the new $23.3 million facility or the well-being of local swim groups, according to one such club’s head coach.
KISU Swim Club’s Tina Hoeben said council would be increasing the likelihood of a drowning.
Council is currently considering reopening the community centre — all at once or in stages — later than June 1. According to the city, there are new provincial regulations, not yet drafted, which may impede city staff’s ability to organize operations at the pool. In addition, there are budget considerations, with staff reporting $94,000 savings with a July 5 opening and $257,00 in savings with a Sept. 6 one.
“This is a huge safety issue,” said Hoeben. “We haven’t offered swimming lessons for 14 months in our community. We live with two lakes on either side of our city. They have got to be joking if they don’t think that they are prime for a drowning.”
Hoeben showed up at council’s budget deliberations Monday afternoon.
“Children have a window from six to 10 years old when they more readily absorb how to move in the water, how to float and how to become better swimmers,” she told council. “If you take away two summer seasons for that I think there will be a real deficit in terms of swimming skills in our community both this year and in the future.”
Hoeben said the closing of the PCC for renovations last March has forced KISU to reduce the programs it runs.
“The hit that our club has taken with the pool closure has been harsh,” she said. “It has been harder than I expected.”
According to Hoeben, KISU is down to about 50 swimmers from 220, plus they have been forced to pay out-of-town rental rates at the swimming pool in Summerland, five times what they would pay in Penticton.
Hoeben said opening the pool in September would be hard on both KISU and, more so, on the Pikes Summer Club which runs from May through August.
“Presently (the Pikes) are down to 18 swimmers,” she said. “I don’t think that they can survive not having a facility in our community for another season. So you may lose a club that has been here for over 50 years if you don’t open a pool as soon as possible.”
Penticton Triathlon Club board member Brad Lee, who also sits on the sports tourism committee, pointed out to council that the city will be hosting two new sports tourism events in July: the Grand Fondo and the Junior Elite Triathlon Race.
“(Delaying the opening) won’t be good for citizens and for marketing purposes,” he said.
Representing user groups Aquafit and ReAct, resident Jan Higgins told council they should remember that the pool is used by people to keep fit or to recover from injuries or surgeries.
“As soon as you can open it, do so,” she said.
Council voted unanimously to give staff a month to come back with a report on the issue and to hear from other members of the public.