By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
The city could increase programming at Rotary Pool in hopes of boosting attendance at the aging downtown facility.
Oshawa’s community services committee recently passed a motion directing staff to operate the pool this summer “as usual” while providing more instructional programming and increasing lane swimming opportunities on a pilot project basis.
The matter will be brought to council at the March 18 meeting.
Earlier this year, the committee tabled a feasibility study of Rotary Park and its pool located near the corner of Gibb Street and Centre Street.
City staff had called for $880,000 in the city’s budget to create a detailed design of the revitalization of the park, which includes an updated pool and the construction of a new splash pad and playground facilities.
Based on concepts provided by city staff, capital cost estimates are $5.31 million for the pool and bathhouse and $590,000 for the splash pad area.
The estimated construction cost of the playground is $1.24 million.
Councillors were also told the existing pool facility requires significant investment for upgrades.
The most recent condition assessment of the pool found short-term repairs to structures and mechanical systems between 2019 and 2021 could be up to $450,000.
Repairs to the mechanical room alone could run between $75,000 to $250,000.
Adding on a potential $1.25 million for the replacement for the mechanical system, consultant Monteith Brown estimates the city could face $2 million in spending “with no guarantee that the pool tank can effectively function beyond a five to seven-year period without a complete rebuild.”
After tabling the motion, councillors participated in a tour of Rotary Park’s facilities in mid-January.
Ward 4 regional councillor Rick Kerr felt the feasibility didn’t provide enough “qualitative data” for council to make a decision on Rotary Park’s future.
Noting “pilot projects do generate quality data,” Kerr said with the community response to the program in hand, “council will be in a better position to make a decision if they have quality data.”
However, community services commissioner Ron Diskey noted the city has offered a higher variety of services at Rotary Pool before, but hadn’t garnered overwhelming results.
“We just did not get the numbers,” he said.
Despite supporting the pilot project, Ward 3 city councillor Bradley Marks had some reservations.
He worries there could be a temporary boost in usage of the pool, but the momentum would fall off soon after.
Marks said council must proceed with caution before spending “significant dollars” on upgrades to the pool.
“I’m interested to see what the end result of the pilot project is,” he said.
Responding to questions from Mayor Dan Carter, Diskey said the city has the staff and resources needed to facilitate the pilot project in 2019.
Several residents came forward in support of the city further investing in Rotary Pool.
Tony Petrarca lives and works in the area near the park.
“I really do believe in community. When I heard there was possible talk of closing Rotary Pool, I felt this was something else I had to speak out for,” he said.
Petrarca said he’s seen comparisons of usage at Rotary Pool versus Del Park Homes Centre and other facilities – an unfair comparison in his mind.
“It’s apples and oranges as far as I’m concerned,” he said, stating outdoor pools are a unique resource for municipalities and should be valued.
“A beautiful blue pool on a summer day – I’m not sure how you put a price tag on something like that,” Petrarca said, telling councillors the city “doesn’t have to make a profit on everything we run,” citing Lakeview Park as an example.
But he was clear he believes the facility does need some work.
As a parent, he notes his children love to swim for hours, but when he wants to get out, there is no shade from the sun.
“I need to sit somewhere, and you just bake on the deck,” he stated.
To him, installing umbrellas for shade and seating would be great additions to the pool.
Currently, lane swimming is offered at Rotary Pool on a limited basis.
Petrarca said many people who would use this program cannot make it at the time, mostly due to work.
He pushed for the city to extend the pool season, citing longer summers due to climate change.
“It’s just as brutal in September with the heat as it is in June. That is what is happening, our seasons are getting longer.”
While seeing the pilot project as “a step in the right direction,” Petrarca doesn’t believe it can be judged after a single summer and vowed to keep fighting for Rotary Park.
“I believe it is worth saving because I believe it is one of those little jewels we have in our city,” he said. “And once you tear it down, it’s not coming back.”
Winston Stairs has been using Rotary Pool for almost 50 years but feels there is much more that could be done to utilize it.
He suggested it could be used for swim meets and competitions, and lifeguard training.
“I understand it is badly in need of repair, I’m just suggesting it is a gem that the city is overlooking in many ways.”
In a letter to the committee, resident Janice Bosak said Rotary Pool has “the potential to provide many opportunities to families and people of all ages,” in one of Oshawa’s “priority neighbourhoods.”
However, she said usage of the pool is sub-par because programming and hours of Rotary Pool are limited compared to other facilities in the city.