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Sundre Aquaplex hot tub needs to be replaced

Indoor pool’s manager emphasizes that “physical and emotional health are literally priceless”
MVT-Sundre council-aquaplex
Kari McQuaid, the Sundre & District Aquaplex’s manager, was joined by Chris Craig, president of the Sundre & District Aquatic Society board of directors, on March 28 during a presentation to council. Municipal officials heard the indoor pool's hot tub no longer meets health codes and must be replaced at a yet-to-be determined cost. Simon Ducatel/MVP Staff

SUNDRE — The ongoing operational and maintenance costs at the Sundre & District Aquaplex might be expensive, but a price cannot be placed on physical health and mental well-being, council recently heard.

The indoor pool and fitness centre’s manager, Kari McQuaid, was joined by the president of the Sundre & District Aquatic Society board of directors, Chris Craig, on March 28 during a presentation to council.

While there has been plenty of progress made over the years toward ensuring sustained and even improved operations, such as finally making the fitness centre available 24-7, there nevertheless remain some hurdles.

Among the biggest challenges currently facing the society, is that the original design of the hot tub basin no longer meets Alberta Health standards, McQuaid told council.

“We are only in the engineering stages, but we fear that getting our hot tub back in service is going to be a very costly venture,” she said.

Additionally, there are always other ongoing expenses such as repairing leaks, boilers and heat exchangers as well as replacing filters, pumps, and resupplying costly chemicals to treat water, not to mention payroll and increasing utility costs, she said, adding fitness equipment must also be maintained and sometimes replaced as it becomes either outdated or unsafe.

“Our operating costs are extremely high,” she said. “But the Sundre Aquaplex has an extremely positive effect on our community. This is a benefit you can never put a price on. Physical and emotional health are literally priceless.”

Introducing Craig, she said the society’s president has played an important role in helping to reduce those operational expenses by volunteering to look after the facility’s electrical maintenance for 15 years, as well as general maintenance for the past two years.

“When I took over the facility two years ago, basically we were shut in by Alberta Health,” said Craig, referring to the province’s pandemic protocols.

The silver lining in an otherwise unenviable situation was being able to put in many hours of work on the facility without any service disruptions, he said.

“We’ve made a number of improvements,” he said, adding leaks have largely been addressed.

“We’re almost never closed due to water quality. It’s just so much better than it ever was,” he said.

But another issue the facility currently faces is the life expectancy of some of the equipment, and planning for the future must also factor in necessary upgrades, he said.  

McQuaid expressed appreciation not only for the support of volunteers and the community over the years, but also the recreational grant funding provided over the years by the municipality in partnership with Mountain View County.

“Without it, I do not think the pool would still be operating,” she said about that funding.

Concluding their presentation, she invited council to don some workout gear for the fitness centre or join society members and staff for an upcoming aqua fitness class.

“We’d love to have you guys come visit our facility,” she said.

“When there are discussions about this (recreation) grant in the future, please keep in mind we are the only recreational facility in Sundre that is open year-round,” she said, adding the Aquaplex also provides local employment for as many as 20 people.

Coun. Chris Vardas praised the society’s efforts.

“I’m really impressed in how well that place is maintained,” said Vardas.

The councillor also sought clarification as to whether the hot tub would be up and running any time soon.

“It’s looking like we’re going to have to basically dismantle the entire cement basin, and then put in new updated drains that meet the new requirements and then cement it all back and re-tile it. So, it’s a long-term project and it’s going to require quite a bit of fundraising,” said Craig. “Once I get all the engineering back, then we’ll have costs associated with that.”

He added the society intends to apply for additional grant funding from other sources, and that patrons are frequently asking about the hot tub.

“It’s the biggest (project) that we’re tackling,” he said.

Seeking clarification, Coun. Jaime Marr asked if the invitation was open to the public or specifically to council.

McQuaid said the invite was for council.

“You want us in the gym in our workout gear?” asked Marr.

“We would love that,” replied McQuaid to some laughter from the chamber.

Mayor Richard Warnock expressed gratitude for the society’s work as well as optimism about the possibility of finding ways the municipality can continue working alongside the group of volunteers.

When the time comes to review funding, the mayor said council would keep the Aquaplex in mind, and if nothing else at least ensure “there’s no cut.”

Council carried a motion accepting the society’s invitation.

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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