Pooling Your Thoughts on the Four Seasons
Prince George, B.C>- The Four Seasons Pool in downtown Prince George is reaching the end of its life, and the Aquatic Centre is already 20 years old, and the demand for water access is increasing.
Those are two of the findings in the latest report on Aquatic Services in Prince George.
The new report, which columnist Peter Ewart has written about on two separate occasions ( Part one, Part Two) seems to be at odds with a previous study ( referred to as the Tetra Report) on the Four Seasons pool which said the facility could be repaired for about $1.84 million (between 2015 and 2024), while the Aquatic Centre would need $2.55 million for upkeep over the same period of time. The latest report by Dialogue Design says the Four Seasons needs to be replaced.
Dialogue Design’s Doug Wournell says the two reports had different functions “The Tetra report looked at the condition of the building, so their report was first to find out about the condition of the building in terms of stability. What Tetra said was yes, this building is ok it needs some repairs to the roof and some glazing, but otherwise things are ok.” The Dialogue Design study examined the functionality of the Four Seasons Pool, and Wournell says it has failed miserably. “The problems that we found, were, being as old as it is, it no longer serves as an aquatic centre the way people expect today. ”
Wournell says the problems include accessibility “Accessibility for people with mobility issues, or seniors, is horrendous.” He says he witnessed a woman with a cane, making her way up the steep steps from the parking lot then going through a door she had to open because it’s not automatic, then down another set of steps, and back up a set of steps and then make her way to a change room.
He says getting from the pool to the observing area is also encumbered by steps, “When you are going to the leisure part, you have to go down steps to get to the leisure water, so all throughout that facility accessibility is not there.”
Then there’s the issue with the change rooms, which Wournell says are “totally inadequate”. He says because of the way families are today, there are family change rooms, the days of just having a men’s and women’s change rooms are long gone. “The way we do it now, is to have family change rooms, so you have a common change room with cubicles where you can change a whole family and then come out. There are none at Four Seasons.”
Then on top of that, Wournell says renovations over the years have created staff offices “all over the place” which makes it difficult for security “And if you have to use the washroom, you basically have to ask for the key, like you would at a service station.” He says no one is to blame, “It’s simply what happens when a building is at the end of its life.”
Wournell says one of the things they discovered in developing the report, is that there isn’t enough “water” in Prince George to handle the demand for access to pools “So an additional tank has to be put somewhere, so we’re looking at the Aquatic Centre because it’s so over subscribed at the Aquatic Centre, they barely have enough space to do learn to swim ( programs). So when the fix happens, it will kind of two parts. One will have to look at something at the Aquatic Centre to make it more functional, it also doesn’t have enough family change room space. Then you come to the Four Seasons. You can’t get rid of the Four Seasons because you need that space, it is fully subscribed so there is no way of not having the second pool. ”
With no extra capacity to handle the demand for water activities, Wournell says the Four Seasons cannot be torn down while a new one is built as that construction would take about 2 years. “So whatever happens, the Four Seasons has to stay intact until a second facility is built somewhere, basically to replicate what the Four Seasons does, but one that is functional, which is the Four Seasons isn’t.
If both pools are oversubscribed as Wournell says, how is it that both are money losers? “All pools are money losers” says Wournell “It’s like roads. You don’t make money on your roads, but you build them anyway. Aquatic services are recognized as needs , a community good that has to be supported by tax dollars.”
Wournell says he believes the answer for the Four Seasons is to build another pool “That has the same basic tank configuration but one that’s more efficient, updated mechanical equipment so you don’t smell the chlorine , but also with the proper change rooms and amenities that go with it, nothing elaborate, just something that is better in a functional way.”
He says once a new facility is built, the existing Four Seasons could be re-purposed. “The question to the people of Prince George is, if you need these amenities as is indicated by all the surveys and public processes we’ve gone through, you have to be prepared to pay for them and it’s probably something Council will look at in a referendum at some point to say we need these, but are you will to pay for them?”
The City is still gathering information on it’s Aquatic Survey which can be accessed here.