Council voted 8-7 in favour of a motion instructing staff to permanently close the city’s largest and most-used outdoor pool. The motion also instructs staff to begin looking at new amenities for Thames Park and look into the feasibility of adding a spray pad to Thames Park or the Green in Wortley Village in consultation with the community.
The motion also calls on staff to look into the logistics of building a new indoor pool in the neighbourhood, possibly at Rowntree Park, Murray Park or at another city-owned property.
A staff report released in the spring recommended against rebuilding the pool, arguing its location on a flood plain and the site’s high water table means any pool build there will be prone to water damage and closures. A crack in the pool deck prevented it from opening in the spring of 2022 and it has been closed since.
Council was considering two options to carry out repairs costing either $1.9 million or $2.3 million that would allow the pool to remain open a few more seasons while a new pool site is found.
Both would not see the pool open until the 2025 season at the earliest.
Ahead of Tuesday’s council meeting, members of the Old South Community Organization (OSCO) wrote a motion to have council approve those repairs using private funds from an unspecified source.
A slim majority of councillors, however, opted to pull the plug on Thames Park Pool and direct staff to instead focus on finding a new site. The money that would have been spent on repairs will now go into improvments at Thames Park and a feasibility study for the pool’s replacement site.
Community left with no clear pool plan
The decision disappointed OSCO president Nicole Phillips. She’s worried the neighbourhood will have to wait years for a new pool instead of having a place to swim while planning for the new site happens.
“The city has a long history of closing infrastructure and then not building new infrastructure for decades, if ever,” she said. “With the decommissioning of this pool there is currently no new location identified for the pool. The motion has no timelines. It’s the ambiguity of that that causes alarm within the community.”
Coun. Skylar Franke, whose ward includes Old South, asked councillors to support the motion to repair the pool so it could keep operating a few more season while a replacement plan takes shape.
However Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis said it made more sense to divert money and staff time to a new aquatics facility for the neighbourhood.
“I think we have to come to the realization time that it’s time that we say goodbye to Thames Park Pool,” said Lewis. “Let’s invest in the community in a responsible way …. and let’s start the ball rolling on a new location.”
Thames Park Pool was built in 1927 and at 25,000 annual visitors, had the heaviest usage of the city’s 11 outdoor pools.