Municipal swimming pools must improve their game, according to sports council

The City of Ottawa is invited to think beyond aquafitness classes and also focus on hosting high performance swimming and diving competitions as they decide how they want to build future recreational facilities.

“Right now, most of our facilities in Ottawa, with the exception of a few, are built to recreational standards,” said Marcia Morris, Executive Director of the Ottawa Sport Council on Thursday.

“We have up-and-coming athletes who end up having to leave Ottawa to train,” Morris said, citing the example of divers who moved to Toronto to use a facility built for the 2015 Pan Am Games.

The shortage of high-end sports facilities also means Ottawa is lacking major events, Morris said.

“We are also unable, in many cases, to host a major sport tourism event because our facilities are not up to par.”

Marcia Morris of the Ottawa Sport Council said many competitive athletes are leaving Ottawa to train elsewhere. (Kate Porter / CBC)

Long term gain

Com. Mathieu Fleury, the city’s sports commissioner, agreed it made sense to build facilities not only for local use, but to host future events.

“Sometimes the additional investment costs up front could be helpful in maximizing the use of this facility,” Fleury said.

The Nepean Sportsplex – the only municipality-owned facility with a 50-meter pool – was the benchmark when it was built in the early 1970s, Fleury noted.

But Dan Chenier, the city’s general recreation manager, said it was becoming increasingly difficult for the resort to meet the needs of national and international competitions. The city hopes to use the development charges to pay for a second 50-meter pool.

Morris said the city’s aquatic facilities were allowed to age while other facilities such as sports fields were upgraded for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015.

“Right now we can’t even really host a national swimming competition in Ottawa,” Morris said. “Often, these events go to Gatineau because they have the new pool there.

Guidelines a good step

Com. Diane Deans said that overall it made sense to come up with general standards for recreational facilities and community buildings.

She pointed to a new country house in Pushman Park in her parish – a building she called the “Taj Mahal of country houses” – as an example of how the city sometimes goes too far.

“It looks really good, but it was embarrassing to me that we spent so much money and so much time on a sports complex,” Deans said. “Having standards and a cookie-cutter approach to these kinds of installations makes sense to me.”

City staff propose that the new arenas contain two NHL-sized rinks and that the pools should be at least 25 meters long and six lanes wide.

City staff will use the guidelines for the park’s new pools, rinks, lanes and washrooms as they develop a comprehensive strategy for where and when to build recreational facilities. This strategy is expected in 2020 or 2021.


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Sara R. Cicero