What better thing to do on the hottest day of the year than head to the pool? Even if that pool is just a dirt and gravel parking lot right now.
That’s what several city and regional district elected officials and staff, Lheidli T’enneh members, and construction workers did yesterday to officially kick off the construction of the replacement of the Four Seasons Pool downtown.
Site preparation and excavation began earlier this month on the new pool, which will be 3,588 square metres (38,602 square feet) and located on Seventh Avenue, between Dominion and Quebec Streets. HDR Architecture and Chandos Construction are leading the design and construction process. The pool is expected to open in late 2022.
The cost of the pool is estimated at $42 million with up to $35 million of that coming through borrowing, which was approved in a referendum.
“Council is extremely grateful to the federal and provincial governments as well as the regional district for the significant investments they have made along with the City of Prince George toward this project,” said Mayor Lyn Hall. “Getting to this point has truly been a team effort – thank you to our residents, user groups, and every organization helping to make this wonderful facility a reality.”
The Regional District of Fraser-Fort George will contribute $750,000 towards the project. The big funding commitment, however, comes from federal and provincial grants totalling $10 million. The city delayed starting construction until the grant was secured.
“We couldn’t start construction before that process was done and I’m glad we didn’t,” said Hall. “We would have ended up not receiving it.”
The big funding question, then, becomes: Will that money be used to lower the amount of borrowing or add to the state-of-the-art facility?
“There will be more conversation about the $10 million in the fall,” said Hall. “We could put it towards the borrowing of $35 million or we could use it to do a few more upgrades in the pool. We’ll see where that conversation goes.”
Hall said it makes sense to go ahead with the construction of the pool, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic which has had a serious impact on the city budget.
“We were adamant, as a council, that we would follow the referendum and we had 62 per cent (approval),” said Hall. “We could have squashed this project, but we didn’t have those discussions. It was to move forward … I’m happy that we’re continuing, it provides that recovery, it provides those jobs.”
The new pool will feature:
- A six lane, 25-metre lap pool.
- A four lane, 25-metre teaching pool with warmer water and shallow depth.
- A leisure pool with a lazy river, beach entry, and play features.
- A large waterslide with a run-off lane.
- Dedicated male and female change rooms, as well as a large universal change room.
- Sauna and steam room
- Rooms for lessons and training
The new pool is expected to draw many people to the downtown, including visitors from outside of Prince George.
“The Regional District of Fraser-Fort George is pleased to commit $750,000 to support this new facility,” said Art Kaehn, chair of the regional district. “We know residents from throughout our region will enjoy the new pool as part of their recreational and leisure pursuits.”
The entire facility has been designed with a particular eye for safety and accessibly. For example, the pool tanks will feature shallow entries and “pool pods” to provide people with mobility devices to enter. The facility will also have much-improved lines of sight for lifeguards to increase safety for patrons and the change rooms will open onto the shallowest ends of the pools to decrease the likelihood of falls into deep water.
“I feel that the work City staff and the architect have done in designing the new pool has really raised the bar in regards to how buildings can and should be built in order to make them accessible to everyone,” said Chris Gobbi, Chair of the City’s Advisory Committee on Accessibility. “The project team met with the committee multiple times, and each time they came, they had updated drawings that incorporated the suggestions we had made previously. We really appreciate being heard and we can’t wait to see the results of our work together. The whole community will be proud!”
The new pool will be connected to the City’s Downtown Renewable Energy System (DRES), which provides heat sourced from wood waste at Lakeland Mills. Modelling conducted as part of the planning for the new pool indicates that being connected to the DRES will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 95% compared to if the pool was heated with natural gas.