UPDATE – New Alberni pool plan not quite dead in water

It's going to take 10 years to get off the ground but Alberni should start saving now for the $17 million it will take to build a new pool.

The city should start saving now in order to be able to afford a new pool complex in the future, says Port Alberni city councillor Hira Chopra.

A report released last week shows a new Echo Aquatic Centre will cost $17 million to build but could take 10 years to break ground.

The project is outlined in the Echo Aquatic Centre Feasibility final report, which was brought up  for discussion at Monday’s city council meeting.

Parks and recreation director Scott Kenny said as soon as he introduced the report that he is not asking for money for the project right now.

Council okayed the $24,000 feasibility study last March with funds from its land sale reserve fund.

Assembled by Venture Pacific Construction Management, the study was completed over a six-month period. It encapsulates comments made at public meetings about the new pool idea, existing pool assessment, demographic information and cost projections.

The study outlines six options for a new facility costing between $15 million to $18 million, and range from renovating the existing building to building a new facility and using the old one for other purposes.

Study proponents recommend Option 6 (pictured) as the preferred option, the study notes.

The proposed $17 million plan includes a six-lane lap pool, leisure pool, waterslides, new change rooms, as well as office and fitness space.

The old building would be renovated and used for fitness, office and multipurpose spaces.

The new facility would draw more and could increase revenue by 40 per cent. While the new facility would require additional maintenance and staff, the additional revenue would offset it.

Land has been identified behind the old pool where the new facility could be built and an option with a package of amenities has been recommended.

But a lack of substantial federal or provincial grants to help underwrite the issue may stall the project for another 10 years, the report noted.

And the city doesn’t have enough money to float the project either.

“Even if we directed all of the funds from the casino ($500,000), Community Forest (estimated $500,000) and Parks and Recreation Capital reserve for 10 years we would at best accumulate a total of approximately $10 million,” Kenny said.

When asked how long the pool will last before a new one is an absolute necessity, Kenny said real wear-and-tear will show up in about four years, but the mechanical system is in good shape and should hold up for at least seven.

Council  directed staff to seek funding options, and Chopra said they should look at putting money away so they have at least one-third of the total cost in hand when they start applying for grants.