Indoor Pool Meeting April 2018

The WMA organized a public meeting on Monday April 16th to discuss the options and requirements for the new indoor public swimming pool that was a major component of the platforms of the new council, elected in November 2017.

Premise

The audience were informed that there would be no debate about the need, or otherwise, for a pool, this having been determined by the election. Instead, the audience was asked to answer the three following questions:

  1. What type of pool and facility to you want?
  2. Where should the new pool be located?
  3. How should it be operated?

In all, a total of 26 people spoke, most of whom were either members of the Dolphins or Masters swim teams. Many opinions were also expressed on the perceived deficiencies of the outdoor pool at the Westmount Recreation Centre (WRC). It is worth noting these as these will need to be addressed if there is any plan to convert this pool into year-round operation.

Summary of  the WRC pool deficiencies

  • Not deep enough over a large enough area for water polo or synchronized swimming
  • Diving boards are too close together to allow both to be used at the same time
  • No 2m or 3m diving board
  • Diving boards cannot be adjusted
  • Showers are inadequate and not properly controllable
  • Over-chlorination, particularly in the evening causes issues for people with respiratory issues

Before addressing the three specific questions, it’s worth summarizing some of the frustrations current swim teams members expressed due to there not being an adequate indoor pool in Westmount, as well as noting where they have to travel to currently.

Current Frustrations

  • Difficult to  maintain local swim team in Westmount in winter due to issues at the Y – many travel to other pools
  • Several top-class swimmers currently live in Westmount but have to swim elsewhere
  • Cote St Luc pool is popular but busy – synchronized swimmers use this pool
  • Many swimmers use the three pools in St Henri, but those are also at capacity
  • Several pools in NDG/CDN in use, but also busy
  • No facility at all in Westmount for any kind of watersports such as waterpolo or synchronized swimming
  • Very limited facilities in Westmount for seniors in aquafit programs
  • Competitive divers have to travel even further to find usable diving pool – Westmount has a world champion diver
  • All sorts of management issues at the YMCA as well as inadequate facilities (shallow end too deep, poor ventilation system etc.).

What Type of Pool

There were three main topics raised in the answers to the what type of pool and facility question

  1. A large enough shallow end for children and seniors and to support aquafit and waterbikes
  2. A large enough and deep enough deep end to support synchronized swimming and watersports such as waterpolo
  3. A separate diving pool properly designed to the diving boards are usable, adjustable and have 1m, 2m and, ideally, 3m high boards

There was discussion about the size of the pool and what other facilities should be included. Much has evolved in the rest of the world over the past couple of decades and 25m pools are considered passé. This is a summary of what should be aimed for:

  • 50m pool length with 10 lanes
    • This will support teams and allow events to be hosted in Westmount
  • Community feel to the entire facility with café, fitness centre etc.
    • To further the community feel, steam room and hot tub as is done at many facilities in British Columbia
    • Possibility to include things such as  “endless pools” and areas for rowing practice
  • Located close to public transportation to allow easier recruitment of lifeguards
  • Affordable for families – ideally free or included in the current Recreation Pass
  • Universally accessible
  • Well ventilated with as low a level of chlorination as possible (such as is the case with saltwater pools)

Pool Location

For the location of the pool, there was discussion that included converting the current WRC pool to year-round use, via a removable cover, but the consensus was that, if this is done, it should be either a temporary solution until a dedicated facility can be built, or, a permanent conversion that will be augmented by a dedicated indoor pool at another location. There was a suggestion that a proper diving pool could be installed where the dog run used to be at the corner of Lansdowne / Ste Catherine. There was a consensus that, ideally, the new pool will be as close to public transportation as possible. The following sites were suggested:

  • Re-use of the parking areas current known as the Tupper Lots.
  • On the land in Westmount zone R3-39-01 at the MUHC site, behind the train station (see also Westmount Zoning Map)
    • This would require a tunnel from Victoria to access the parking, but the train station itself could house elevators to make the pool accessible
  • Adjacent to the WRC

In general, people were more concerned about proximity to public transportation and universal accessibility than a specific location. For the case of the conversion of the current WRC pool to year-round use, concerns were expressed about adequate parking, particularly in winter when both rinks are in use. One suggestion would be to make space available at the Oral School for the Deaf and also in the Bethune site of Public Works outside of office hours. The Armory on Ste Catherine street was mentioned, but it is not clear when or if this will be available. Similarly for the Hillside Armory, which is now in the hands of a private developer.

Pool Operation

There was much less discussion about how the pool should be operated and what partnerships, if any, should be entered into. Most comments were concerned with the following:

  • Affordability for all users
  • Programming to support teaching school children to swim
  • Programming to support seniors who may not be swimmers
  • Sufficient capacity to support a plurality of different users simultaneously
  • The consensus was that the City of Westmount should operate the pool

Summary

Attendees were passionate on the need for a local pool that our community can be proud of and that will allow us to host events. Any facility that’s built should be at least as good as the best of those in the neighbouring communities and we should not have to reinvent the wheel – hence  learn from what other cities have done with their recently built pool centres. Any conversion of the WRC would be welcomed, but only as a short-term interim solution until a dedicated pool, with diving facility, can be built, though a year-round WRC in addition to a new indoor pool would also be welcomed.

Westmount’s municipal reputation as a model city on the island of Montreal is being challenged by our lack of an indoor aquatic facility. Westmount therefore needs a new indoor pool and the City should start work on this project as soon as possible.

Next Steps

  • Organize a pool committee – the WMA will provide a representative
  • Contact your councilor and Mayor
  • Send your comments to pool@wma-amw.org