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Beltline, Inglewood pool plan includes $45 million ask for Repsol leisure upgrade

Calgary could extend the support for two inner city Calgary recreation facilities, but $45 million towards an expansion of Repsol could secure inner-city aquatic service for the future.

A report on the Beltline and Inglewood Aquatic facilities will come to a Community and Protective Services meeting on Wednesday. In it is a recommendation for $800,000 in funding to keep the two aging rec facilities open for public use through 2022.

The big recommendation, however, is for $45 million in capital funding for an investment in leisure aquatic facilities at the Repsol Sport Centre. That money would come from current and future cash in the city’s community investment reserve, according to city documents.

Beltline Neighbourhoods Association president Peter Oliver said it’s great to see this action coming from the city.

“This is, I think, finally acknowledging the direction the city needs to go and the type of investment we need to make here, if the city really is serious about encouraging more people to continue to live in the center of the city,” Oliver told LiveWire Calgary on Friday.

He said with the closure of the Inglewood and Beltline facilities due to COVID-19, there was a major gap in available resources. That was compounded with the recently announced permanent closure of the Eau Claire YMCA.

There was concern that the city preferred the Repsol Sport Centre as a catchment to cover these closures. Oliver said Repsol is more currently geared toward competitive sport and not leisure opportunities for core residents.

“It could be really positive for the downtown to build off of what’s already there and leverage that, but also help add some additional amenities that are more focused on the people who live within walking and biking distance, and transit distance of Repsol,” he said.

Path to the future

Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said the writing was on the wall for Inglewood and Beltline pools. They’re aged, they’re heavily subsidized and they don’t have the usage to balance off the costs.

Carra acknowledged it would be nice to have neighbourhood pools, but it’s just not feasible. They’re too expensive to run, he said.

“There has to be some sort of aggregation of these things to hit both a proper economy of scale, and to reach a catchment that draws enough people in to make the investment worthwhile,” Carra said.  

“Repsol is looking like that.”

With the extension of funding for the two aquatic facilities, it will allow the continuation of services through 2022. This will happen once COVID-19 restrictions are over. Carra said the timing is ideal.

“My dream was that we don’t close the Inglewood pool until we have a replacement pool built, and that seemed like a stretch,” he said.

“Now it looks like that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”

Oliver said given the city’s focus on the downtown, the timing is welcome.

“The time to act on these things is now if we really want to bring more vibrancy back to downtown,” he said.

Outdoor spaces

The Beltline pool area will remain closed and the city administration plan is for the weight and gym area to be converted into a community use space.  The rock wall will not re-open for public drop in but can be opened for group bookings under the proposal. The gym will open for social and recreational use.

There’s also a host of outdoor activities planned for both areas that will help fill the void in both areas.

Carra said that’s a real key to the work that’s been done.

“What’s exciting about this report is that we do have a path to a future state, and the future state is a more robust suite of recreation offerings,” he said.