250 News - Your News, Your Views, Now

October 27, 2017 10:49 pm

Out with the old, in with the new – Replacing the Four Seasons pool

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 @ 5:45 AM

By Peter Ewart


Many people in the community appear to be in agreement with Doug Wournell, of Dialog Design, and Kevin Post, of Counsilman-Hunsaker consultants, that the 46 year old Four Seasons pool is beyond repair and needs to be replaced with a new facility.

That does not mean the pool facility is unsafe or should not be used.  Far from it.  The pool likely still has a few years of life ahead where it could be providing a useful, reliable and safe service, while another facility is being built.


So what are some of the problems with the old pool?  A report last year from Tetra Tech consultants suggested that the pool could be renovated and saved (see previous column).  However, it also stated that the entire exterior enclosure of the building needed replacing.  And that the HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system, plumbing and exterior stairs were in need of repair.

But, as the authors acknowledged, the Tetra Tech report did not include an assessment of the facility’s roof (because of snow build-up), and, by all accounts, it needs to be replaced.

Problems with the HVAC system are clearly evident in the men’s shower room which often, especially in winter, is very cold (bordering on frigid) for wet swimmers emerging from the pool, to the point that many avoid a pre- or post-swim showering.  In addition, because some of the doors to the outside in the pool area do not have ante rooms, frigid air in winter (and even snow) often blows right into the swimming pool area when people are entering or leaving the facility, sending a cold wind over the water and a shiver through swimmers.

On the other hand, in the warmer months, the humidity / heat levels can be very high to the point of being oppressive, especially for parents and others watching the swimming in the viewing area overlooking the pools.  The viewing area itself is bare except for a few cheap chairs and tables, a couple of vending machines, and is generally uninviting.

Access to the facility is not very user friendly with stairs going up at the front entrance and long stairs up from the parking lot entrance.

Inside the change rooms there are various issues.  The showers do not always have a consistent stream of warm water and old fixtures often malfunction.  Cold water can run for some minutes making for an uncomfortable showering experience.  This problem apparently is caused by the sometimes intermittent supply of warm water from the District Energy system to which the pool is connected.

Issues in the change room include old, rusting lockers that sometimes are jammed and swallow up coins.  In addition, some of the plumbing in the change, shower and rest rooms is past its prime and needs replacement, and electrical, throughout the facility, could need updating.

Other problems include occasional parking space shortages and sub-standard acoustics in the pool area.

However, it should also be pointed out that staff at the Four Seasons pool (lifeguards, clerks, cleaning staff, maintenance staff, and supervisors) have done an excellent job of keeping the facility going, given the older condition of the pool and the relatively small amounts of funding that have been put back into the facility in recent years.

So, for many in the city, it appears that the Four Seasons pool is a facility entering its twilight years that is not worth pouring more renovations funds into.  As the consultants Doug Wournell and Kevin Post have pointed out, trying to repair and renovate it would likely end up being much more costly than building a brand new facility.  In some ways, it is like the problems encountered in renovating an old house.  The more you renovate, the more problems are uncovered, and the budget skyrockets.  This is especially true for a facility subject to excessive moisture and mildew.

To be fair, the pool has done its job over the last almost 50 years and is still doing so.  It has provided warm water pool recreation facilities for the city as a whole, as well as foot access for kids, older adults and families in the VLA, Miller Addition, Downtown, Crescents and other bowl areas.

A lot of people still like the old pool despite its faults.  And it likely will continue to serve the city reasonably well for a few more years while new facilities are constructed.  One thing for sure, having new, state-of-the-art, accessible pool space in Prince George will become even more of a necessity as the years go on –  facilities that will serve the present population, both young and older, as well as attract newcomers to our northern city.

But now, rather than trying to renovate the old tank, maybe it is better to move on and figure out what a brand new public pool facility (or facilities) should look like for the city, where these should be located, and so on.  In that respect, the consultants’ report to City Council which is being assembled, along with the previous Tetra Tech report of 2015, will be important in providing information to Council and the public as to which way forward.

That being said, now is also the time for more news and views on the pool topic, as well as ideas and commentary from the public, and 250 News is an important vehicle and forum in that regard.

Note:  A survey put together by the City is asking for public input on aquatic facilities in Prince George and can be accessed here.


Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia.  He can be reached at: peter.ewart@shaw.ca



Finally the city is making a good decision. Unlike the decision to industrialize Otway Road.

    I do not see a decision. What is the decision you refer to- to survey the people of the city?

Council has a tough decision, pool or PAC, pool or PAC, hey maybe both combined! Sneaky council.

Boundary road, plenty of space there!

    Great place; NOT!! About as far away as one can get from the several major population centers in the city.

    I think if one were to take the population centers of the city, the centroid or geographical center is relatively close to the exhibition grounds.

    At least two smaller pools than the existing aquatic centre are required, one located in College Heights and the other in the Hart. Those centres could be built with several other community SPORTS uses such as ball courts.

    In larger cities there have been some successful private developments. At the same time, there have also been some Public Private Partnership developments which have failed and had to be bailed out by the city.

Take the pool out, keep the shell of the building and put in an amphitheater in the hole where the pool used to be. PAC problem solved.

You are welcome..

    Wishful thinking.

Further to that, build a new pool in the stalled hotel’s space, where it would continue to be centrally located and accessable to the many patrons who use it.

    Not a reasonable suggestion. Put in on the brainstorming session board. Will not survive closer scrutiny.

Just curious. How old is the Coliseum? That public facility seems to continue to function well and its likely older than the Four Seasons.

The longer the life cycle (which is achieved by having a prudent maintenance program), the greater the return on the investment of public tax dollars.

Demolition and waste is costly and that must be factored into any evaluation of the cost/benefit of a retrofit vs. replacement.

The other important question to ask at this stage is what type of programing would produce the most revenue while not competing with the experience available at the aquatic centre (another taxpayer funded facility). As an example, perhaps more slides would be the answer as that is something not available at the aquatic centre.

    Coliseum opened in March 1959.

    By October 9, 1959 the Architect declared the building unsafe. I am not sure why. However, the structural Engineer checked it out and declared it met the building code of the day which required a minimum of 50psf design snow load. The City had asked the roof be designed for 60psf.

    The contractor agreed to reinforce the trusses so that they met the 60psf design load.

    It took about 10 years for the failure of the glue laminated timbers to be apparent. They were delaminating. Since they were not manufactured in controlled manufacturing fashion, but were assembled on site open to the weather, unprotected from rain and other moisture, it should have been expected by all those concerned – structural engineer, contractor, architect as well as the City administration. The only excuse is that those were the early days of glue laminated construction.

    In at the end of February 1969, the building was again considered unsafe. This time for some very solid reasons. The remedial action taken was to add deep box trusses which spanned the entire building to hold up the structural components which were adequate to span the shorter spans crated.

    The steel trusses were constructed on the ground and raised by cranes placed on each side of the building. During the process, one of the cranes collapsed and the truss fell onto the building creating considerable damage.

    To give the glue lamination process used a bit of relevance, the roller dome (curling rink) roof was constructed of glue laminated timbers. Those sections were manufactured under controlled conditions in a Vancouver plant and shipped up to PG in sections and bolted together on site. That was in 1952, some 7 years prior to the building of the Coliseum.

    So, the thinking that the Coliseum continues to function well comes with little background.

    You can usually find answers to questions about major events in PG in the digitized version of the PG papers located at pgnewspapers.pgpl.ca

Many questions to be answered about this pool proposal.

1. Why was the building allowed to get into such a state over the years. It appears pretty obvious that very little maintenance was done. We had a similar problem with the old police station. Little maintenance, then cost analysis of new versus repair, and then build a new building.

2. We need to know the cost of a new structure, and as mentioned above the costs of demolition, and of borrowing money. Again the new police station cost us approx. $38Million, however this money was borrowed over a 20 year period and cost us approx. $18 Million in interest. Do we really want to go down that road.??

3. What other projects are on the books and when and how will they be built and paid for.?? There is of course the PAC, then the new Fire Hall, don’t forget the new Coliseum, and upgrades to the library. So in essence we could be looking at over $100 Million in new projects. Where will the money come from.?? How much from the Feds, Province, City, and borrowing. These are the pertinent questions that have to be answered.

6. In the meantime we have the abandoned police station on 8th and Brunswick staring us in the face. Can this building be utilized.?? If not then lets hear from the City as to what their plans are for the building.

7. We also have the abandoned city property on the East end of 4th Ave that the city left behind when they moved to their new digs on 18th and Quinn. Can we get any money for this property.

8. How many loans do we have with the Municipal Lending Authority that are now paid off or will be paid off in the next few years, that will free up money now being paid on interest and principal. Is it possible that with these debts being paid the City is itching to borrow more money.

9. We need a full fledged debate on any future capital projects, with a clear understanding where the money is coming from, and a commitment from the City that there will be no tax increases to pay for them.

I wait with bated breath.

    I suspect you and I and others who care can wait for a very long time. As time passes, there are no indication that this administration/council is much different from the last.

    They have created themselves a comfort zone of appearing to be different, but in reality they are not.

    I forgot to hone in on the apparent problem with lack of hot water in the showers, etc, with the apparent reason being that the district heating system is to blame.

    To me, it is not that. It is the engineers who designed that who should have known what the heating pipes were supposed to heat. Seems to me that the hot water tanks should have continued to be gas fired. In fact, they should have explored in-line heaters which would allow for continuous hot water on demand to be supplied.

    Anything else is archaic.

    The City has staff who should be supervising any consulting contracts and be able to ensure that as the client they ask for proper standards and ensure that design as well as building contractors conform to those standards.

    I think we have not changed very much from the coliseum fiasco and the pool fiasco.

    The architects who won the library/cultural centre design competition at least got the notion of an elevated deck to accommodate parking as well as the flood plain right.

    The City did not follow suit and allowed the construction of the Civic Centre, which I believe is about 18 inches or so below the 100 year flood plain, and allowed the construction of the two latest structures on the site without additional parking structures.

    Who is minding the store at City hall? Seems that the City Managers of recent note have not been and neither have the Councils and the current as well as the previous 3 mayors.

As far as the pool goes, it too suffers from some original mistakes as well as mistakes made when the addition was designed.

1. The pool was raised to avoid being compromised by the rising water table in the spring/summer. Thus the deck of the pool is sitting a full level higher than the surrounding grade. One could probably have built the pool basin so that it was restrained by friction piles driven prior to the top of the piles being secured to the basin to prevent it from being lifted by hydrostatic forces when the basin was empty during maintenance. The symphonic hall in Cologne Germany is an example of such a construction technique. In that case, the hall is underground and anchored into bedrock. A double hull construction allows water to penetrate the outside hull where any water penetrating is pumped out in a similar fashion as such pumps in ocean-going ships.

2. Thus we have a stairway in the main lobby which meant that those with walking challenges could not access the pool deck without help.

3. In addition, the emergency exits from the building on the parking lot side have dangerous exterior stairs which can be unsafe in the winter with snow and ice.

4. As far as no vestibules on those door, they were not intended to be used to exit the building other than during emergencies. That should be enforced so it is an operations problem.

5. In 1973, when I first experienced the pool I thought it was a very nice environment with lots of light coming in on the south face. In the summer, there was a large 12 foot wide concrete exterior balcony which allowed people to sunbathe there. At that time, very few public pools had some much daylight coming in and access to the outside from the pool deck.

6. The addition of the water slide ruined that part of the building. It did not need to have done that. Greenwell designed some nice, simple buildings, but, in my opinion, he showed that he lacked imagination of being able to interface the addition with the original building. We could have done without the faddism of round domed “windows” to replace the original expanses of glass which let adequate sunlight into the build and reach the water surface of the basin.

This building needs to have a total makeover to modernize the function and get it level with a raised deck.

Finally, the entire site suffers from lack of adequate parking. The second deck of parking planned for the library has not been constructed. The Civic Centre reduced surface parking while increasing the demand for parking due to its presence. The same happened with the construction of the Two Rivers Gallery. When events at the 5 venues (gallery, library, civic centre, coliseum, coast inn) coincide it becomes a mess. The Civic area is in bad need of a parking structure.

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