Anticipation continues to build as the pool and fitness centre upgrade at Cariboo Memorial Complex continues.
“People are excited. I hear it every day,” said City of Williams Lake events and marketing co-ordinator Beth Holden.
“Things are going great overall and the project is on time and on schedule,” said Director of Community Services Geoff Paynton, adding that one of the challenges has been keeping the pool open while building a new one.
“The project has been ongoing since March and has another year and a half to go; so far we’ve only had to close the fitness centre and the pool a couple of times for a few hours,” he said.
“I see people every day who assume the pool is closed; we say every way we can that the pool is open.
“We’ve managed it so far. We made a promise to the public to keep it open and that’s what we’re doing.”
Other communities building or renovating pools have said that it’s quite a feat that the pool in Williams Lake has remained open, according to Holden. “Because it’s under construction and there are changes, we’ve been able to offer incentives to the public, including discounts and a special summer youth pass,” she noted. “We wanted to offer something to say that we appreciate the public’s patience.”
She added that people will see lots of free swims and themed swims coming up this winter.
During the construction process the fitness centre is set up on a modified basis outside the pool area. “When we started all this, there wasn’t going to be a fitness centre open at all; what we have is a bonus to say the least,” Paynton explained.
He said that Tango Management and the construction guys have been really good to work with. “They accommodate our needs around their need for progress; they’ve been very helpful and understanding, especially during the Elders Gathering,” he noted. “They understood how important this event was for our community.”
“A few workers from out of town have volunteered at various community events,” Holden added, “being part of things while they’re here.”
Current progress includes the stairwell to the new second floor, and walls torn down in the fitness centre.
The elevator shaft is in place; it will be used for a second floor like it was originally planned.
Profiling of the lap pool tank and some concrete work has been completed and the first loads of steel have arrived and are ready to go up.
Holden said that a real highlight for her was when the wall of the fitness centre was broken down. “That made it real for me,” she explained. “And all the machinery in the new parking area reminds me it’s really happening.”
“I’m so looking forward to the first day when the kids walk in and say, ‘Wow.’ That’s what it’s all about,” Paynton said. “In Williams Lake we’ll have this awesome pool that our communities can enjoy — tax dollars and patience will have paid off.”
“This upgrade will provide opportunities to run new programs for people with mobility issues; it’s going to allow us to offer interesting new programs like water polo,” Holden said. “This is a way to engage even more of the community at the pool.”
“We will go from a 40-year-old pool to one that is fully accessible to everyone,” added Paynton. “It will open doors to a lot of people who couldn’t come in the past.”
Other benefits will be opportunities for youth to find employment. “We’ll need more staff with twice as much pool,” Holden continued, and Paynton added that when it comes to the big picture, the upgrade will help with doctor recruitment and retention. “It’s a positive light for our whole community,” he said.
There’s an on-site camera that takes a photo every 10 minutes so people can see it on the Cariboo Regional District and City websites; you can also follow progress on the Sam Ketcham Pool Project Facebook page.