The West Fraser Aquatic Centre in Williams Lake is a great Christmas present for everyone, said Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett during the newly-renovated facility’s grand-opening held Thursday.
“It’s great for people in the surrounding area and for tourism,” Barnett said. “It’s projects like this that make my job worthwhile.”
With a final project cost of $14.1 million, the Cariboo Memorial Complex now includes a new fitness centre, lap tank, swirl pool, steam room and leisure pool that features a waterslide, lazy river, tots area, kiddie car wash, teacup fountain, bubble pit, vortex and massage chairs.
“This all started in 2011,” said Darron Campbell, manager of community services for the Cariboo Regional District. “To build something like this, it takes a lot of money so we went to referendum in 2014 to borrow up to $10 million to complete the project.”
The referendum passed, but $10 million wasn’t enough, Campbell said, noting it required other partners to come to the table.
In the end, the project received $500,000 from West Fraser, $250,000 from Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT), $500,000 from the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program, $4,427,500 from the federal Gas Tax fund, a $427,500-allocation from the Cariboo Regional District community works funds and $4 million from the Strategic Priorities Fund.
“The vision is that this improvement will increase the use of the facility by 45,000 swims per year,” Campbell said.
Barnett said the pool was made possible because of the taxpayers and funding partners.
“The gas tax fund comes from you the taxpayers,” Barnett said. “You supported something that every community around the area is going to be jealous of.”
She also presented plaques to the City of Williams Lake and Cariboo Regional District in recognition of the pool’s opening.
Representing the NDIT board of directors, Margo Wagner said NDIT was pleased to support the project.
“The addition of the accessible features in the centre will mean that more people can use it,” she said.
West Fraser Williams Lake Plywood manager Dave Walgren said he was very proud to be at the grand opening.
“We have been a proud partner in the community for more than 60 years and excited to contribute to the aquatic centre and expansion of the Sam Ketcham Pool,” Walgren said.
Ketcham was one of the company’s founders, and when the pool first opened in 1980 it was in part in tribute to Ketcham, Walgren added.
“I want to thank the town for supporting our industry over the years,” he said. “We are excited about what this facility will offer our employees and their families.”
City of Williams Lake councillor Laurie Walters said the City and CRD staff have been invaluable through the entire process, including the various transitions and shut-downs as construction continued.
“Now that our dream has become a reality, we can truly recognize that it has been short-term pain for long-term gain,” Walters said. “I know we are incredibly proud of the new complex and look forward to enjoying this top-quality facility for decades to come.”
CRD Area D director Steve Forseth thanked the City for partnering with the CRD on the project, and Tango Management Group for managing the pool upgrade.
“I also want to thank the local contractors who put their hard work into the project,” Forseth said. “If I start naming all of them it will take another half hour, but what I will tell you is that 55 per cent of the project costs went to local trades which amounts to about $6.6 million. With tough economic times, particularly with the wildfires we had this past summer, I’m proud that this project was able to help support our economy.”
Prior to the grand opening ceremony, the City’s director of community services Geoff Payton gave a tour and said the chlorine used in the pool is run through a different filtration system.
“Before we just had liquid chlorine and that was our only disinfecting agent and now we have ultraviolet (UV) disinfection as well on top of chlorine and newer and better filters so that all helps make the water quality much more improved,” he explained.
Payton also said the water slide does not empty into the pool because that is the new legal requirement for water slides.
In order for the water slide to be open there has to be enough lifeguards on duty for one of them to stand at the top of the stairs to give the go-ahead for the next person to to down the slide.
Under the rules, anyone wanting to go inside the pool area has to be wearing swimming attire, however, Payton said when swim meets are taking place and bleachers and chairs are brought in for spectators, the rule doesn’t apply because the meet organizers rent the entire pool.