Yellowknife city council is leaning toward approving a design for the new aquatic centre that will include eight 25-metre lanes, as recommended by city administration.
The project is tentatively pegged at $57 million, but many adjustments will be made before a total price is known. A final council decision is to be made at the Jan. 25 regular meeting, following an October referendum.
Council was also asked to discuss the prospect of adding an amusement park-style water slide to the project. That item is expected to be the subject of further discussion later this month.
The replacement for the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool is scheduled to open in late 2023.
Following Monday’s committee meeting, senior administrative officer Sheila Bassi-Kellett said the city’s recommendation is based on several factors, including making use of the district energy system; getting the most out of programming options that can be provided while offering sport tourism; the facility’s potential ability to hold local and regional competitions; having more training and competition space; and taking into consideration costs, including operation and maintenance and staffing.
The city’s proposal wouldn’t allow for some activities, such as national and provincial competitions, training for long-course or 50-metre competitions for water polo or synchronized swimming.
Upon approval, the city will be refining facility specifications with the municipality’s bridge consultants and reaching out to private bidders to get a sense of final costs through a request for proposals.
“When the proposals come in, we will analyze those and make a recommendation to council,” Bassi-Kellett said. “And once council has made a decision to proceed at that point, we will then confirm the amount of money that we need to borrow, establish a borrowing bylaw and go to referendum to seek voter approval.”
A design-builder should be selected in August leading up to the referendum.
Mayor Rebecca Alty said she expects to have a final sense of the total cost for the city’s planned pool by the summer.
Referendum expected in October
Next October, a referendum is due to be held, asking residents for permission to borrow the money needed for the the project.
Of the tentative $57 million, it’s estimated residents would be asked to approve borrowing $7 million.
In 2016, the federal government, through the Building Canada Fund, committed to provide $12.9 million toward the project. The city would cover the remainder through various funds and the federal gas tax rebate.
If approved, a contract will be awarded to the design-builder for December 2021. Construction will then take place over 2022 leading up to completion for November 2023.
Alty said she expects the city to communicate to the public over the coming year to ensure that residents are well informed on the pros and cons of borrowing for the project before voting in the referendum.
Borrowing referendums are seldom held. In 2011, the municipality asked residents for permission to borrow money for its Con Mine community energy system that would have used geothermal technology to heat 39 of Yellowknife’s largest downtown buildings. That motion was voted down.
In 2018, residents approved changing council terms from three years to four years.
“There has been money spent, part of which has come from federal funds and part of it from capital funds through our budget and the gas tax,” she said.
Feedback from some residents expressed interest in an amusement park style water slide. Currently the consultant’s concept design plan includes a splash area with a spray-and-play area and a small water slide.
Anything larger – comparable to an amusement park slide at the West Edmonton Mall – is estimated to cost $1.4 million with ongoing costs for upkeep and additional staffing, council heard.