At the regularly scheduled meeting of North Grenville Council on May 17, Council members were presented with a report outlining the feasibility of a new indoor aquatics centre being developed locally. The study was conducted by East York consulting firm Sierra Planning and Management, and was presented to Council by Sierra’s director, Jon Hack.
Jon began by presenting the various site options on which an indoor aquatics centre could potentially be built within Kemptville. The North Grenville Municipal Centre was proposed as the most viable site, with the Kemptville Campus being a good second option, and Riverside Park also looked at as an option.
When presenting proposed details of what the facility itself would look like, Jon noted that the primary focus should be on making sure the facility is built to last. “If you’re going to build it, you’re going to build it the right way, and you’re going to built it so that it’s going to last,” said Jon. “It’s not going to be done simply to be able to tick a box that there is an indoor pool of some nature for the community.”
The proposed facility would be a municipal Class A pool, with fully certified lifeguards and full programming. The recommendation taken from the study is for a multi-use facility, on an appropriate scale for the anticipated population served. This could potentially mean a 6-lane, 25-metre athletic pool, plus area for leisure swimming. Such a facility could measure approximately 25,000 square feet, though in such early stages, the size is not yet clear. The best practice recommended by the study is a two tank design with sufficient decking to allow for swimming lessons and other activities, and space for other amenities.
Jon gave examples of other pool construction projects which have happened in other municipalities recently, including their costs, but was careful to point out that many factors affect cost, and so the examples should be taken as a guide only. Jon told Council not to be alarmed at the enormous expense presented in the examples, since costs can be controlled by adjusting what other amenities are built concurrently.
The next part of Jon’s report focused on the local market for indoor aquatics, and whether it justifies such a centre being built in Kemptville. Given that there are surrounding municipalities which also do not have aquatics centres, the Sierra study suggests that it is not appropriate to look solely at North Grenville’s municipal boundaries when determining demand for a new aquatics centre. The study includes a map of surrounding locales, showing all areas within a 30 minute or 45 minute drive of Kemptville, as these places would be a potential source of users of the facility. Within fewer than 10 years, an aquatics centre in Kemptville would have a primary catchment population of approximately 27,000 people, which is considered reasonable to justify the cost of the facility. “You would not be criticized for going forward with a suitably scaled pool,” Jon told Council.
Aquatics centres are among the highest deficit-producing recreational amenities that municipalities can build, but they provide significant leisure benefits, and they do generate revenue unlike some other amenities, such as libraries. A financial report presented by Jon suggests that an aquatics centre would be expected to have a deficit of over $400,000 per year, but that this is normal and expected with such a facility. In order to help cover the costs of the initial build, Jon recommended planning quickly in order to be ready to apply for provincial and federal grants when they become available. The report ultimately endorses the potential of the development of an aquatics centre as an addition to the Municipal Centre, and warns against developing a single-use facility (i.e. a multi-use facility is recommended).
Mayor Nancy Peckford emphasized that the study by Sierra Planning and Management was commissioned only to assess the feasibility of a potential future project. More discussions on the proposed project are certain to be had in the near future.