The Glacier Bears swim team waded out of yesterday’s council meeting with a partial win, securing exclusive use of the Canada Games Centre pool on Saturday mornings.
In an about-face from last month, councillors supported the swim team’s bid for increased access to the city-subsidized pool for training.
“Two hours on Saturday morning is the only time the (whole team) gets to swim together, so I think it’s absolutely vital that they get these two hours,” said councillor Doug Graham.
I don’t think we’re inconveniencing anyone by eliminating those two hours.”
A phone call this week from a father whose seven-year-old son was turned away from the Glacier Bears was enough to convince councillor Dave Austin.
“He was turned down because they didn’t have enough time or space (to accommodate him),” he said.
“If anything, it means that maybe we have to work a little harder to give these kids time to get into that facility and get some instruction.”
In June, the competitive team requested all eight lanes of the pool on Saturday mornings and some weeknights, for swimmers to train.
The issue was shelved by councillors at a later meeting in July because of a discrepancy over which hours the team wanted for its own exclusive use.
After two meetings with city administrators, the team backed off from requesting the pool on weekdays. They focused instead on Saturday mornings from 7 to 9 a.m..
“Saturday morning became a sticking point in the discussion,” said Pat Duncan, president of the swim club.
It was a point that administration wasn’t willing to budge on because of the precedent it might set for other groups using the facility.
The original plan for the Canada Games Centre was to provide, “spontaneous recreation opportunities versus programmed, structured opportunities such as sports leagues or scheduled public swim times,” said Brian Crist, manager of operations.
Administration recommended council give the swim team 50.5 more lane hours from last year without any exclusive use of the pool during the week.
It was a motion that was eventually defeated.
“It’s good to see that council is in support of young swimmers,” said Bears treasurer Mike McArthur after the vote.
“I think we’ve won the battle but we haven’t won the war yet. We’ll see which way programming goes at the Canada Games Centre (in the future).”
The optics of allowing just one group full access to the pool didn’t sit well with Mayor Bev Buckway.
“I have a concern about the message we’re sending to our staff,” she said.
“We had been working along one path, asking our staff to work on that path and then we get some concern in the community and then suddenly we say, ‘Okay, we’re just willing to change that.’”
Now, the city’s 2003 recreation master plan is brought into question, she said.
When the Canada Games Centre was initially created, access to the public was seen as a priority.
“I fear that by supporting these two lanes wholeheartedly we’ve gone forward and now suddenly we are going to take a huge step back,” said Buckway.
For some councillors it was only the beginning of the discussion on how facilities at the Canada Games Centre are used.
“This can’t be the be-all and end-all of the discussion, deciding it tonight is just stupid,” said councillor Jeanine Myhre.
“We need to bring a policy forward to look at how council runs the Centre.”
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