The Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre will stay open a little while longer – but nowhere near as long as its loyal users were hoping.
In a newsletter sent to recreation facility users on Tuesday (Nov. 2), the City of North Vancouver says the centre will stay open, with limited services, until the end of January 2022. Previously, the centre was slated to close entirely on Dec. 31.
An online petition that circulated in recent months, calling on council to keep Harry Jerome open until the new one is completed, has more than 3,500 signatures, but the city signed a binding agreement with developer Darwin Properties to lease the lands over the long term. Many users turned out to the facility to protest, Oct. 30.
The city’s recreation commission says services into the new year will include some drop-in public swim and skate sessions, fitness centre drop-ins, some masters swimming visits, and some aquafit classes.
The announcement comes as the city has garnered attention for the behind-closed-doors council meeting that determined the existing HJCRC facility would close while the new facility is built across the street. The city had previously told rec users the existing facility would remain open while construction was underway.
In a statement to North Shore News, Pardeep Purewal, communications manager, said the extension comes as the leaseholder of the existing building is providing an additional month for the city and North Vancouver Recreation Commission to move out its equipment and furniture.
“This gives user groups and the public an additional month to make use of some of the services,” Purewal wrote.
The closure of the existing building leaves many HJCRC users without a recreation facility in close proximity. Swimmers will most likely have to relocate to Ron Andrews or Delbrook pools, while ice-rink users may need to find space at ice pads off the North Shore.
Back in October, Barbara Pearce, director of strategic and corporate services, explained the city’s rationale for closing the facility early.
“It is the largest project the city has ever undertaken. In total, it's a couple hundred million dollars,” she said. “If we were to finance it over 20 years, we'd be looking at approximately an 11.5 per cent tax increase to our residents, which is a significant addition to their tax bill. Council has chosen, on this project, to instead lease the current Harry Jerome lands, which we do have a binding agreement with a developer for.”
Construction on the new Harry Jerome centre will begin in March 2022, with a completion date of 2025, according to the city.