The more I think about the Township’s plans for the new Aldergrove Recreation Centre, the more I like it.
There was a lot of thought put into the planning of this facility along with fiscal responsibility. Ice arenas and swimming pools are not generally profitable; they are a social utility usually built by government which subsidizes their operations in order to keep admission prices within the reach of families and user groups.
The Township subsidizes the Walnut Grove and W.C. Blair pools’ operations in the range of $1.3 to $1.8 million, each, annually. This subsidy ranges between those two figures due to variances in the total admission fees received from users in a given year, and therefore in a good year the subsidy is still a hefty $1.3 million for each facility.
This is a lot of money, needless to say.
And obviously it would not be prudent to merely replicate the Walnut Grove or Blair facilities here in Aldergrove, as it would only take away admissions from the two existing pools. Spreading the business among three subsidized pools would likely push the annual subsidy to the outer range of $1.8 million at each of the pools.
The Township’s general manager, Jason Winslade, says about 11 per cent of W.C. Blair’s users come from Aldergrove. He anticipates that some of this market will use the new Aldergrove rec centre instead, particularly the exercise and weights rooms users as Aldergrove will finally have these highly-popular facilities in the new centre.
However, the Aldergrove aquatic facilities will be unique, in fact the only facilities of their type in the Fraser Valley, and should attract large numbers of users for the May to September season. This water park complex will include three water slides, a children’s aqua play area, a tidal or wave pool, and a current channel around the slide towers.
In a sense these unique facilities will replicate the Aldergrove Lake experience, which drew thousands of families every summer before Metro Vancouver Parks shut it down. And while Aldergrove Lake was free of charge (Metro Vancouver did away with admission fees after purchasing it from private operators in the early ’70s), the Township will have the same admission fees here as at any other Township pool — roughly $10 for a family, $5 for an adult, free for toddlers. This is considerably less expensive than the comparable, privately-operated Cultus Lake water park.
The aquatic complex also includes a heated six-lane 25-metre outdoor pool which will operate year-round. There is some contention about the outdoor pool aspect from users who wish it could be an indoor pool, but with the benign climate we have here there would be few days of the year that it would need to be closed. It and the two adjacent hot tubs would be heated year-round, thanks to the economical new heat exchange technology that would simultaneously cool the ice arena and heat the pools.
Winslade says the footings and foundation needed for a pool enclosure will be built so that this could be added in the future, but not enclosing it now will shave $6 million off the cost and keep the project within the $25.769 million budget allocated for it.
The Township has raised this $25 million budget almost entirely by selling surplus properties in East Langley, so there will be no tax increases required for the rec centre project and the Township can proceed without requiring any borrowing.
The Township has also been setting aside $200,000 a year for the anticipated increase to its annual subsidies so that there won’t be a shock to the Township budget when the new Aldergrove complex opens.
The existing Aldergrove outdoor pool is 50 years old, and the ice arena is over 40 years old. They are at the end of their days and it makes sense to replace them with a consolidated facility that will reduce operating and staffing costs, while augmenting those facilities with other popular amenities such as the water park and exercise rooms.
The new two-level arena will have more office space and change rooms as well as seating for up to 650, which enables it to host major ice events. It will also have a dry floor capability so that it can host more than a thousand people at events such as concerts and parties — and thanks to the sunken design and concrete walls there won’t be the same level of noise complaints from neighbouring residents that the existing arena has experienced during special events.
Aldergrove is getting the very best of new amenities and it isn’t costing any Township resident more money in property taxes.
I’d call that a win-win.