Process to replace old Alberni pool starts

Architect Bruce Carscadden helps jot down questions and concerns from the more than 30 people who attended the new Echo Pool informaton gathering session on Tuesday night. Another session is slated for June 27 at Echo.

The formal conversation about planning a new pool facility in the Alberni Valley has started.

More than 30 people attended a public information session about a new facility at Echo Centre on Tuesday night.

Earlier this year city council gave the green light for Parks and Recreation to spend $24,000 from the land sale reserve fund on a feasibility study for a new pool.

The study is being carried out by a group of consultants working on the project.

Venture Pacific’s Mark Van Ek is the lead consultant.

Parks and Recreation has retained architect Bruce Carscadden to help.

And William Webster and Monty Holding are working on the planning and costing issues.

All four consultants are from the Lower Mainland; they don’t all work for the same firm.

The existing pool’s age, size, and limited program offering necessitated the project.

“This is about planning for a new facility – the planning for it needs to be done now,” director of Parks and Recreation Scott Kenny said.

Neither Kenny nor the project consultants present discussed what a new facility here would cost. “There’s too many unknowns yet,” Kenny said.

But they did say that new or expanded facilities in similar size communities cost upwards of $15 million—costs which have been underwritten with federal and municipal monies.

The facility could take anywhere from two to 10 years from start to finish to complete.

“We use 10 years as a benchmark because that’s how it took with the Multiplex,” Kenny said. “How long it takes depends on the will of the people though.”

The preferred location for a new facility is behind or beside the existing Echo Centre site.

“We want to keep it connected to the museum, library and community centre,” Kenny said.

Extensive renovations have been done to the existing facility including the installation of new HVAC and water purification systems.

Most of the systems could be recycled and grafted to the new facility.

And the old building won’t necessarily be torn down. Instead, it could be converted to a multi-space dry floor facility, Kenny said.

At the meeting, Kenny facilitated a question and answer session about the existing and possible new facility with the more than 30 people—many of whom were seniors—who were present.

At the existing facility people said they like the sauna, baby pool, free parking and diving boards.

But they don’t like the small family change room, lack of leisure pool, small whirlpool and fitness rooms, limited program offering and limited access.

Several people go the pool in Nanaimo because it offers different pools, more amenities and cheaper admission.

A new facility should contain competitive, leisure, and wading pools; larger fitness and change rooms; expanded program offering; coffee and pro shops, and a brighter motif, they said.

A separate meeting was held with civic officials and stakeholder groups earlier in the day.

There, they outlined mechanical space potential, chemical delivery and storage, common control point, teen activities and better acoustics as issues they wanted addresses.

The project consultants will tabulate the information gathered at the meeting. They’ll return to Port Alberni with a report and request for more feedback on June 27.

Officials hope that more people will attend the next session to better reflect the Valley’s demographic, Kenny said.

In advance of June 27 the public can fill out a new pool project questionnaire at either city hall or Echo Pool.

They can also access the questionnaire online at the city’s website,

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