Monday November 24, 2014

Kinsmen Aquatic Centre recommended for demolition

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Kinsmen Aquatic Centre is headed for the wrecking ball.

North Battleford city council unanimously voted Monday to accept the Parks and Recreation department recommendation that the building be demolished and that building materials of value be reclaimed, with the intent of returning the site to park space.

The aquatic centre was already slated for closure once the new Co-op Aquatic Centre opens later this summer. After the new aquatic centre at the Credit Union CUPlex opens, the City will move forward with decisions on how the demolition and reclamation of the materials will proceed.

The recommendation to demolish the existing building was delivered to council in a memo from Parks and Recreation Director Keith Anderson, dated April 18.

“It hurt to put this memo together,” Anderson said.

Anderson echoed the mixed feelings expressed by councillors at the meeting. Councillors took time to speak at length at the meeting about the Kinsmen Aquatic Centre and what it had meant for those who used it over the years.

“The heartbreaking part is that Kinsmen Aquatic Centre has been a part of this community since the mid-sixties,” said Anderson.

“It’s become a real part of the community. It’s almost the heart and soul of our rec department.”

Anderson spoke of the various programming and training that went on there over the years, with many of those who went through those programs and getting qualifications to go on to jobs there.

“It’s served the community very well for 50 years and it’s a shame it came to an end like this.”

But city administration believed it was the only viable option after assessments came back from structural and mechanical engineers, as well as a roofing consultant, indicating the cost of renovating the existing building would be in the millions of dollars.

The City engaged Robb. Kullman Engineering LLP of Saskatoon as structural consultant, GWJ Grant Jones PEng as the mechanical consultant, and Scottco Roof Consultants did the roof assessment.

The structural and roofing consultants came back with reasonably positive comments about the building’s future. The building itself is structurally sound and Kullman reported the life expectancy for the structural elements could possibly be extended an additional 25 years, provided it is retired from use as a swim pool. Scottco reported the roof’s life could be extended for 10 years.

The mechanical system was a much different story, according to Anderson’s memo.

GWJ Grant Jones was quoted as reporting the “present operating condition of all mechanical systems is poor. In order for this facility to continue to operate as a public swim pool, a total replacement of the mechanical systems would be required to allow it to function and meet current regulations. We would suggest that the usage of this facility be changed to some less demanding occupancy. Even as such, we see very little of the existing mechanical systems being capable of reuse.”

An estimate of what it would cost to renovate the pool tank and floor was not provided but Anderson said it would be significant. A pool conversion was undertaken in Whitecourt, Alta., with the pool developed into a community centre and meeting rooms at a cost of $3.5 million, based on estimates provided to the department from Barr-Ryder who worked on that project.

“It’s big money,” Anderson told reporters about that project.

There would also be significant costs for electrical upgrading to meet current codes. As well, the mechanical/HVAC demolition and replacement would cost $650,000 and the roof maintenance would amount to $15,000.

It was also noted in Anderson’s report that with the expanding programming at the new CUPlex that “we are able to deliver an expanded and enhanced level of aquatic services, provide for indoor gymnasium, track and indoor field requirements to a level we have never seen previous. The City has put itself in a position of providing excellent sport and leisure facilities.”

He did say a void existed on the cultural side, and local artists and artisans might benefit from having a guild-type facility or large studio with storefront potential.

But with the expanded programming coming at the CUPlex it was the opinion of his department that “the Kinsmen Aquatic Centre building is surplus space to the City at this point in time.”

Three options were listed. One was to sell the building or the footprint to an interest group for a nominal fee in the view of the significant renovation and upgrades required. The second option was to demolish the structure and reclaim building materials of value and return the site to park space at its Centennial Park location. The third is to renovate the space as required to accommodate the intended use and operate the facility.

“The most economical option unfortunately is option two. Demolish the structure and reclaim all usable materials,” stated Anderson.

In speaking to reporters after the meeting Anderson reiterated that economics were the issue behind the City’s decision.

“Economically I couldn’t recommend going ahead with the renovation into an alternate use,” said Anderson.

“The City’s positioned itself very well with recreational facilities at this point in time with the CUPlex.”

He noted the mechanical system had far exceeded its lifespan. That it was running at all, Anderson said, was a “good testament to our maintenance crew over the years.”

The aquatic centre building will remain operational until the new Co-op Aquatic Centre opens later this summer. Substantial completion is estimated for late May and a deficiency review is to take place June 23 before it officially opens.

Anderson made clear to reporters there is no rush towards decisions on demolition of the existing building.

“We’re going to get our new facility up and running first,” said Anderson.

As the contractors complete the CUPlex facility and training takes place there, “we are going to be working hard figuring out a game plan and a timeframe for that to occur.”

As for what will happen after the building is demolished, the plan is to meld the site into Centennial Park as more green space.

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