Residents of Westsyde who want to see the Westsyde Pool and Fitness Centre remain open past its planned closure in January are hoping their voices will be heard by the city.
The pool was reopened in September after being closed earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The current plan is to close the pool again once the Canada Games Aquatic Center reopens after its multi-million-dollar roof and wall rehabilitation project is finished.
Those who have enjoyed getting to use the Westsyde facility again are strongly opposed to its planned closure in the new year.
“Hopefully, the city will listen to us and, certainly, the people of the community have spoken,” said Diane Kuchma, president of the Westsyde Community Development Society.
With so many youth struggling to find ways to occupy their time during the pandemic, Kuchma asked, would there be any benefit in taking away even more recreation that is available to them?
“We need to keep some of the things available to them so that they’re not just getting into mischief,” she said, noting the planned closure will occur during a time of year when potential outdoor activities are already reduced because of the weather.
Karl Wolfe, in charge of youth engagement with the Westsyde Community Development Society, cited “bubbles” as a path forward.
“Let’s look at the bubbles that are being created in sports,” Wolfe said.
“The NBA did and hockey did these bubbles. So, Westsyde is a bubble. Let’s give them the options they may need down the road.”
Hours at the Westsyde Pool and Fitness Centre were recently extended following seasonal closure of the Brock outdoor pool.
Any decisions about the future use of the Westsyde facility will be decided by Kamloops council.
“We have put a business case together for 2021, which will be reviewed as part of the normal budgeting process,” said Andrew Smeaton, aquatics program supervisor for the City of Kamloops.
“There’s also opportunities for community engagement in that process.”
With city council determined to head into 2021 with little to any increase in taxes, it means having to look at where cuts can be made, and Westsyde Pool and Fitness Centre could certainly find itself affected by such cuts.
Alongside increased maintenance costs with cleaning the pool facilities during the pandemic, there is also a likely reduction in revenue, as fewer users are allowed in the space at one time.
There is also a reduction in what types of user groups and fitness programs can access the facility simultaneously.
“Just like in other industries, you see that there’s public uncertainty, so people aren’t going to necessarily be using things the same way as they did in the past,” Smeaton said.
“We’ve noticed a reduction in clients across all facilities just due to that uncertainty around COVID.”
But Kuchma believes numbers at the Westsyde location will remain high.
“I’m sure it will be well used to capacity of the numbers that they allow,” she said.
“And those people that come will continue to come and spread the word. They’ll be ecstatic if it stays open.”
The Westsyde Pool and Fitness Centre has previously been shuttered for months — and years — at a time.
Before the pandemic led to recreation centre closures earlier this year, the facility was already scheduled to be closed for a few months so its boilers and mechanical equipment could be upgraded.
A problem with the building’s moisture barrier in the ceiling led to the facility closing for more than two years — from June 2015 to September 2017.