New Canada Games Pool Needed?

This is a guest post by Andrew Evans, a fitness advisor at New Westminster’s Canada Games Pool who also writes a blog called Fit New West. Andrew holds a Human Kinetics Degree from UBC and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. Andrew offers Personal Training services for Health and Performance in New Westminster, B.C. He can be reached at

Let me start off by saying that I love the Canada Games Pool (CGP). It is the most valuable facility in New Westminster.

My love relationship with the Canada Games Pool started in 2002 when I directed summer day camps and would bring groups of 40-50 children twice a week to enjoy the facility. Upon graduating from university I was hired in the fitness centre and have now been there over five years.  I feel I can safely say  Canada Games Pool is the most important facility in New Westminster because it is biggest source of physical activity for children in the municipality.

Last week the main swimming pool was shut down for two days to repair a broken pipe. The pool was half emptied and swimming lessons and public swims were cancelled for two days. (Editor’s note: The pool is also closed today, Sunday 16th – I tried to go there today myself – Jen) The heart and soul of CGP are the children who use the pool, and for two days, they were missing.  Normally, there are times the pool is so jammed packed with screaming children some older patrons complain of the noise, but really, we all love to see the drenched mobs even though our ears bleed. Gradually these children grow up to bring in their own children. This cycle must continue.

Maybe you were one of those kids who grew up using CGP; starting with parent and tot swimming lessons, joining the Hyack swim club or just trying to sneak in the hot tub during public swim times. I have spoken with many patrons who reminisce about their childhood swimming adventures and hangouts at the CGP and I regularly hear “I’ve been coming here for the past 30 years…”.

14000 swimming lessons are delivered at the pool annually, the most in the country. Furthermore, the instruction is the best in the country, with top notch management and supervision. The only thing lacking at the CGP is assurance the building will last another 10 years. In a year I intend to have my two year old twin boys start lessons at CGP, and I hope that they will be able to continue their lessons into their teens without interruption due to facility issues.  In a December 1st article in the Royal City Record,  Councilor Betty McIntosh suggested there are condominium pools in the city that can be used instead of an updated facility.  From the article:

McIntosh said the city doesn’t have to be providing all services that are offered in the community. She noted there are a number of fitness centres in the city and several apartments have swimming pools. “There are private facilities coming on-stream that are meeting the needs of some new residents,” she said. “The city doesn’t have to meet the needs of everybody. We don’t have to be everything for everybody.”

Since I don’t have access to a condo pool, I suppose my boys can have swimming lessons in their kiddie pool.

Backyard Shenanigans - But is it enough?

In my opinion, I believe it is simply wrong to risk having more shutdowns at the Canada Games Pool and cheating out our children because there are other ‘priorities’ in New West. A solution must be found to prevent any further shutdown of the CGP. The building is old and as we go forward without addressing an upgrade, the children are going to miss out.

In a society where childhood obesity abounds and is on the rise, don’t you think we should be trying to solve these problems? I also firmly believe the provincial government should take a part in a solution since a huge proportion of patrons of CGP are from outside the municipality. Additionally, the provincial government should also be playing a bigger role in promoting physical activity.

An upgrade of the CGP could be an opportunity for New Westminster and British Columbia to demonstrate to the country how to get kids active on a large, practical scale and set a standard, rather than take 14,000 steps backward.

33 Replies to “New Canada Games Pool Needed?”

  1. Agreed. New Westminster generally lacks all-age activities, and since recently moving to the city, it is one of the key redeeming features of the locale. I think, greater criticism should be directed towards McIntosh for her comment, which is absolutely unsubstantiated, and completely moronic. Moronic may sound harsh, if those who are supposedly in charge of a city's future, don't believe that their citizens deserve accessible, local, useful facilities, then they don't deserve a position in government.

  2. look, I get a bit of what Betty has to say here. She was referring to an out of date report to council that estamated fitness and pool requirements per populatuon. I think what she was trying to get accross was that the model in the report did not take into account the expanded fitness gym and condo gym and pool facilities. Speaking with her recently, she knows the importance of this pool.

    That said, the pool is pretty old, but also fairly big and flexible. Considering the recent replacement of the Kiwanas pool, the new River park, Civic Center, Grimston Playground, Hyack Square, Queens Park Trails, Queensborough skate park and civic facility expansion, I would vote for a mid-life refit for the structure with a mechanical overhaul or replacement. You can`t replace EVERYTHING in a city in an 8 year period after all.

    NWEP Pat Johnstone suggested a heat transfer system between the curling club and the pool for a carbon-savings benefit. Could power a sterling engine too, I think, make New West an Indepenent Power Producer. ZAP!

    1. I was only speculating on possibilities. The Olympic Curling Centre recovers “waste heat” from ice making for building heating. It seems silly to have a rink sucking heat out ice, and having a pool a couple of hundred feet away heating up water all day. I haven’t explored the technology required, or done a business case. Note, that the RCCC is a member-owned club, not a municipal operation, so there would have to be a business case made for both parties.

      As for the pool and Centennial Centre, The plans when that were presented to Council in the fall make a business case for replacing the facility , compared to spending a lot of money upgrading the aging facility. Not much mention of innovations in efficiency (geothermal, solar water heating, setting up a local energy exchange) The would go a long way towards making any new facility pay off sooner.

      1. (split due to the length limits of the comment machine here. I was once told I could not Sing "Happy Birthday" in less than 1000 words)

        However, as James mentions below, it is going to be hard for the City to find the tens of millions of up-front capital required for this, with a downtown Community Centre, the Pier Park, and other spending priorities. It is unfortunate, but we may have extended ourselves spending in recent years, and that might be bad news for this very important facility.

  3. The city has a very tight budget these days and no funds are availible for the CGP. It has been well documented that the peir park, 150th party, replacement track, funding for the new Massey Theatre, civic center, Discovery center dock upgrade, all the city managers making over $100,000(about the same number of managers as Burnaby)to mention a just a few is costing the city money we do not have and another big tax increase is on the way. In order to keep the down town developers happy the council is putting all their eggs in one basket while the rest of the community suffers.

    1. Good comments James. New West is overpaying and overstaffing at the upper managemenrt level and living the dreams of a Mayor's future legacy, All without consultation with citizens.

      The CGP is only one example of a deteriorating infrastructure, Crumbling roads abound as winter takes it's toll. We wait to see if better weather brings improvement. "There is no money" has been the cry in the past. I wish they would use the same cry when receiving 4% yearly pay increases while regular fixed income citizens struggle to maintain an existence and absorb unjustified increases.

      Andrerw Evens does a great job with his blog and he is an asset to CGP. However, during this CGP replacement issue, lets not lose sight of where 77 + % of our tax dollars go and how little is available from Industrial taxes (they have all left town) making it nearly impossible to afford improvements to facilities and infrastructure in the city.

    2. James, you should know that Burnaby has a whole strata of union jobs that pay the same as the first level managers in new west. The Economic Manager in New west is paid the same as as Planner 3 -Economic Development Officer (union job) in Burnaby. Difference is Planner 3s are paid overtime and managers in new west are not, which means New west staff are paid much less. New west does not have Planner 3s. Same is true in the Parks and Finance departments.

  4. Yes it's disappointing when even the hot tub is down…love the big digital clock & wish we had one at the outdoor pool = important for us 'deep water runners'…

    Have not been invited to use a condo pool…

  5. I have to agree with Mcintosh actually.

    Lets take for example education. The public coffers put kids through school up to grade 12. If you want to go to university for a Kinetics degree it's coming out of your pocket, even though education benefits all of society. There is a limit to what the public is expected from government and free enterprise provides the rest.

    I don't expect the government to provide me with fitness instruction, equipment or facilities. There are plenty of gyms and fitness clubs and equipment retailers that cater to those who wish to purchase those services or equipment. A pool is no different. There are plenty of wave pools and water parks as examples of business ventures to serve this demand.

    As for the provincial government taking a leading role in promoting fitness, I don't disagree that it would save us money on the other end, health care, but the problems of childhood obesity is with the parents and the food choices they provide their offspring. I don't see how a democratic free society can enter the our homes and mandate diet and fitness to it's citizens… we only give them the public schools for the first 12 years of our lives to tell us what to do, and the rest of our lives to pay tax !

    1. Except the dichotomy you draw is a false one. Post-secondary education is not “free enterprise”, the largest proportion of funding for Colleges, Universities, and Technical Schools still comes from the taxpayer.

      Libertarian idealists aside, I am willing to wager that the majority of taxpayers would agree that building parks, playing fields, and public recreation facilities is within the mandate for government, and should be within their mandate.

      1. Thanks for the edification on education Pat ! My libertarianism ideals are bifurcated when it comes to tax exemptions for scholastic enterprise. Perhaps I should start an academic venture to get some of this tax payer funding ! Think I'll call it "United Boulevard Extelligence College".

        Perhaps you can quote exactly where I stated that parks,, playing fields and public facilities is not within the mandate of government ?

        I was simply agreeing with Mcintosh that government doesn't have to provide every service to the community. What about billiards ? Should they make sure every rec centre has a pool table for the publics use ? Thats a very popular recreational activity enjoyed by all ages. How about lawn bowling ? I know the Mayor would be into that !

    2. "are plenty of wave pools and water parks as examples of business ventures to serve this demand".

      Sure, municipally owned and operated by Surrey, Coquitlam, Burnaby Delta, Vancouver et etc. The Landsdown waterpark is the only one I can think of. I don't think relying on other cities to accomodate our demand is the best solution.

      1. Interesting, thanks for the research Will.
        I was thinking about Transcanada water slides, Splashdown Park and Watermania when I was typing that message, but perhaps they're also owned by municipal or first nations government .

        Maybe this has something to do with running a facility with such high upfront costs, liability from public health concerns and drowning/injury potential. Facilities owned by government would likely be more heavily regulated with deeper pockets and difficult to sue, and you know how litigious the public is these days.

        Well, not on my dime, you want to get wet, jump in the tub !

    3. In the summer we spend time at Hume, Grimston, and when it's actually open, Moody Park pools. But winter time, we need a swimming outlet as it is one of the few activities we can enjoy as a family with a small child. Part of the problem I have is that the "other pools" (there is one in Richmond and one in Coquitlam I have gone to, and a friend tells me the Maple Ridge facility is top notch) are far, far, FAR away by transit. Now, I have a car, but during the day, when I am trying to entertain my child and instill the idea of fitness into him, I use transit because our car is needed on my husband's jobsite. I don't want a free facility – I totally support user pay models, and I'd pay more than what I currently pay to use CGP. But even in the density of the Metro Vancouver area, getting to a pool from New Westminster is a huge undertaking of time. There is also nowhere here in New West I can think of that has the space to build a large facility like CGP from scratch. I don't care who runs it, I just want a facility that works.

  6. I agree with the general viewpoint of James H, that the CGP should not be replaced, but rather re-fitted or refurbished; I can not help but point out that the 150th celebration costs were minimal and under budget, and that by taking on so many diverse projects (listed above), council is doing the opposite of putting all of their eggs in one basket. Further, developers in our community seem to be in a state of near revolt as a result of escalating DCC requirements, rather than being 'happy'.

  7. If there are no funds to repair or rebuild the CGP the city might have to close it until after the election, then we can raise the municipal taxes some more to repair the pool and finish the peir park.

  8. So let me get this straight: There is no money to upgrade CGP yet spending $4 million on a wading sized pool in Moody Park was a good idea? The pool is so horrendously designed that they needed to remove the diving board for fear that people would dive right into the shallow end of the pool. Not to mention the motors keep breaking down limiting the use of an already limited outdoor pool. Way to go New West!

    A question that I have is, how is it that other municipalities successfully join into private/public ventures to build facilities for their residence (Bill Copeland Arena is JUST one example) yet New West council sits there like morons complaining that they don't have enough money to pay for new facilities.

    Share the cost! New West leases the land to the private sector for 25 years, in exchange for a new facility. The private sector runs the facility (under the guidelines of the city) and keeps the revenue for the duration of the lease. At the end of the 25 years the property and any buildings revert back to city control.

    Seems like a no brainer to me not to mention there are other facilities that could benefit from this type of arrangement, like Queens Park Arena.

    1. No free enterprise operator could survive in New West public/private partnership. Looking at Moody Park Pool, which serves a neighbourhood with a greater need than the area of CGP. The problem is when designing MPP, suggestions for a proper design, like the community centre pool in Walnut Grove (Langley), were ignored. That facility has roll up doors and can be used in the summer as an outdoor or in the winter as an indoor. Four million will never be recovered from a pool open 2 months in a year. This is why we must look closely at the qualifications of uppermanagement and illinformed consultants who tend to overule common sense..

    2. Remo,
      I thought Bill Copeland Arena was run by the City?

      I’m not sure what the benefit to the taxpayer is in this type of arrangement. It is built on the assumption that the “private sector” will make more revenue in the first 25 years than it costs to build and operate the facility (or why would they take part at all?). How does the taxpayer benefit if that revenue stream (i.e. potential profit) goes to the “private sector” and not back into City coffers? In the past “Sharing the Cost!” has too often resulted in a transfer of taxpayer’s money into the unaccountable pockets of a private corporation.

      Cripes. I sure sound like a socialist there, don’t I? Sorry about that.

      1. Your assumption is correct. The benefit is that New West gets a brand new facility that's run as though it's City owned with none of the expenses. Technically, the revenue is off the city books but so is the expense. For the tax payer it's a wash and at the end of the lease the land (and buildings) go back to the city. At the end of the day isn't the role of government to provide it's citizens with these amenities and not look to make money off of them.

        Granted this is a VERY high level view and there would definitely be some accountability written into the agreement but this model has been successful in many other communities, so why not here? It's time to get some avant garde thinkers into city government.

        1. I agree, Private Partnerships work! But, not in New Westminster where Unions control our poor taxpayers future. They hate private partnerships and it affects our ability to move forward. PC&Rec give up revenue streams and City jobs…..unlikely…. yet.

    3. My son and I spent a great deal of summer 2010 swimming at Moody Park pool and the diving board was always operational, save perhaps for a few brief closings. It was certainly never removed. Moody Park pool is in a neighbourhood with a great number of rental apartments, most of which I suspect don't have air conditioning, so it's an amenity that children and teens flock to all summer. It is true, it's not a huge pool, but it is far beyond a wading pool and it is hugely popular.

  9. This swimming pool has been open for decades. So it is closed for repairs for a couple days. Okay, back in the pool. Not a big deal. Especially during lean economic times. Maybe one day a pipe will again need to be fixed at the Canada Games Pool. If so, close the pool a couple days, fix it, and carry on.

    1. Gene,

      The basic point you are missing is that the physical plant is failing. It is like a 1983 Chrysler K-car with 430,000km on it. The question is whether we keep adding duct tape to plug leaks and throw a bottle of seal compound in the oil once in a while and hope it keeps running, we replace the transmission and a few other important components to assure some medium-term reliability, or we buy a new car. At some point, the latter options become fiscally more prudent, especially as the first option leads to progressively less reliable operation.

  10. Maybe the New Westmimnster community could just use the Burnaby pools and ice rinks, that way we could put our very high taxes to better use and finish the peir park.

    1. Now there is plan! New West already spends a good portion of their income OUTSIDE of New West. How would reducing amenities solve the revenue short fall or improve Taxpayer amenities.
      High taxes To better use and finish the Pier Park? Boy that is sure proving be a wise use of funds. Maybe we should build an innovative new pool at the Pier, We would then have a Freshwater pool at Low Tide and a Salt water pool at High Tide 🙂 * Note to Pier planners… Please don't take this suggestion serious…. just kidding.

  11. CGP has over 500,000 users per year, that would be a heavy burden on any local Burnaby pool. Pools are costly and expensive to run – there are no private swimming pools that I am aware of that make money (waterslide parks are different than a pool), however learning to swim is a skill that saves lives. I am not sure how we put a cost on that. The expansion of the fitness centre areas would assist in offsetting the costs of the pool.
    Pat you are correct that the physical plant is failing. The leak was the first of what I am sure will be many expensive "bandaids" to come. Let's hope council steps in before it ends up as expensive as the Kiwanis "bandaid" was a year before it shut down for good.

    1. Jean,
      Correction: The MPP was not shut down for good. That was solution the City desired. This would have left a sizeable shortage of recreation in a community that relied on it. The choice to attempt a repair was to extend the life for 2 years until a new one could be built.
      To apply the same logic would be to shut down CGP and replace it with a grass field…. citizens would launch a protest like no other. We need to continue to repair and cut costs wherever possible until a new pool can be built.

  12. There is no money for CGP, the city is already planning to increase our debt by tens of millions more to finance our commitment to the Massey, the second phase of the peir park, civic center…. It is a good thing the city has all the residential projects on the go, the new taxes collected will help.

  13. As I commented earlier, IMHO the most viable option is a private partnership! @Pat: I'm almost 100% sure that Bill Copeland Arena was a private partnership project but cannot find any documents online.

    I did find another example with lots of documentation and that's Prospera Centre in Chilliwack.

    If you know anything about this, you know that it was an impressive project and is an amazing facility. I also like the transparency of government, posting lots of info surrounding the project.

    That group of dimwits at city council (New West) should all be made aware of what other communities like (I can't believe I'm saying this) Chilliwack are doing, instead of living in the dark ages where everything the city does is on the backs of it residents.

    1. Copeland arena was funded by the City of Burnaby. The People's Republic of Burnaby doing a PPP? Are you kidding?

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