Dignitaries of all ages broke ground on the region’s new $15-million pool project Aug. 30, digging their golden shovels into the new construction site just off of University Drive.
About 50 people came out to celebrate the most recent addition to Athabasca’s developing west side, which includes Athabasca University, the Athabasca Regional Multiplex and the new Edwin Parr Composite Secondary School.
Town Mayor Roger Morrill said this was a true community project that took time and evolution.
“When you look around this backdrop, this is not just about a pool, not just about a fitness centre, not just about a Multiplex, not just about a school,” he said. “This is a future leader centre. Look around you. This is really turning into something very grand.”
He acknowledged the hard work of the pool design committee and the Friends of the Pool group. “Hard questions help you define,” he said.
“Make things too easy, too simple, sometimes you end result is not as good as it could be. I appreciated all the hard questions and the concerns – the fiscal thoughts. You know, can we afford? All very, very valid questions.”
Athabasca County Reeve Doris Splane said the day had been a long time coming, and she was excited to see the work done by community members and councils past and present finally coming to fruition.
“This pool project is a gift to the future of Athabasca and area residents,” she said. “Such an addition to any community makes a community a better place to work, play and raise our families.”
Rob Balay, who was the master of ceremonies for the groundbreaking ceremony and the former chair of the regional pool design committee, said he truly believes the committee listened to the people of the community and the final design reflects their suggestions.
“I know that we have designed and are building a facility that will meet our community’s needs not only today, but well into the future, for the next 40 to 50 years,” he said.
Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater MLA Colin Piquette said the project had come a long way since its inception through the hard work of people in the community.
“Recreational spaces make all of our lives better,” he said. “And for years to come, families in Athabasca and visitors to the area will benefit from this project as they swim, exercise and relax in this new facility.”
Claire Francis was the Rapids delegate who spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony. Born and raised in Athabasca, Francis started swimming in 2015. In July, at 2017 provincial championships, she won a gold medal in 15m breaststroke, and her time of 36.01 seconds was the fastest time swum by a 12-year-old in Canada this year.
“I would not have had this opportunity if it wasn’t for the great pool that we had,” she said. History Balay said at the event the pool project idea was first seeded in 2011. He said that at that time, there were some preliminary talks with a consultant to discuss options with cost estimates.
In 2012, a new pool was identified as a priority at a town and county joint council meeting, he noted.
“Three years and a town plebiscite later, a pool design committee was formed by the two councils in February of 2015,” he said. “And later that committee was expanded in September of 2015 with the addition of five public members and major group stakeholders.”
Balay also said noting in March 2015 Group 2 Architects came on board as project bridging consultants.
The groundbreaking comes after a joint council meeting June 7, where the Town of Athabasca and Athabasca County councils approved the aquatic complex, which is set to include a fitness centre, lazy river and water slide among its amenities.
The $15,295,000 bid from Clark Builders won, and based on the agreed 60/40 split, the county will be responsible for paying $9,370,299, while the town will be on the hook for $6,246,866, not including donations and fundraising.