More than three years after it shut down the Norplex Pool for safety reason, the City of Thompson finally knows where the bulk of the cost of a new facility to replace it will be coming from.
The provincial and federal governments announced May 9 at City Hall that they will be contributing $5 million and $6 million, respectively, towards construction of a new pool, with the remaining $4 million for the project coming from the city.
“The aquatic facility will improve the quality of life for Thompson area residents by providing recreation that is necessary for their well-being and general health,” said Reg Helwer, provincial minister of labour, consumer protection and government services. “With all of the water bodies that you have in the area it’s critical that we teach people how to swim safely.”
The Norplex Pool was shut down in mid-February 2019, just a few months after current mayor and council assumed office, after they were told it would cost $7 million just to keep the doors open, Mayor Colleen Smook said May 9.
“It came back to us that the pool was very unsafe,” she recalled. “After that meeting, I think, ‘My grandchildren are coming Friday — this is Tuesday — no way I’m letting them go there so how am I going to let anybody else’s kids go there? How am I going to have adults going there?’ This was a very hard decision for our council. It’s definitely been a roller coaster ride since then. Ultimately, it came down that it only made sense to do a new pool.”
Trying to plan for a facility without having a firm budget has been a challenge for the Swim North committee that has been assisting the city with the planning.
“It has been very frustrating for them because we really don’t know how much money we’re raising,” Smook said.
The new pool, which will be built in the field to the east of the Thompson Regional Community Centre, will have two pools, including one six-lane pool and one featuring a shallow end with beach entry as well as a splash pad. There will also be a sauna and a space for small meetings and gatherings, as there were in the Norplex.
“The new City of Thompson aquatic facility will make a meaningful difference in the lives of residents and continue to make Thompson a vibrant place to live, work and raise a family,” said federal Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal in a press release.
Once work to construct the new pool begins, it is expected to take about 18 months to complete, Smook said, adding that she is “really praying” that construction could begin as early as this August, though she cautioned that it is too early to know whether that will actually happen.
Based on that timeline, Thompson’s new pool could be open by early 2024, five years after the Norplex was shut down.
Helwer said the vetting process for Canada Infrastructure Program projects explains why it’s taken over three years to announce the funding for a new pool.
“There’s lots of things that we have to put in place to make sure that it fits in certain areas, and then that goes to the federal government and they make the decision on whether they can support it and then respond back to us.”
Council has not yet determined where the city’s $4 million will come from, though some will presumably come from an aquatic facility reserve that was created by passing a bylaw in January.