This article has been updated to provide more information.
In what may be the penultimate stage of a decade-long rec centre odyssey, City of North Vancouver voted Monday to chop the 50-metre pool in half and cut curling entirely from the Harry Jerome replacement proposal.
Previous plans “resembled more a regional North Shore recreational facility ... rather than a community recreation centre,” said Coun. Angela Girard.
“North Vancouver City, in terms of the regional plans, is a town centre,” countered Coun. Don Bell.
Bell, who supported curling as well as the larger pool, called on council to build for the future.
“Are we prepared to say we’re going to stop all densification in the city because we’re building for those that are here now?” he asked rhetorically.
City staff are recommending the new rec centre include: a hockey/skating rink, two gyms, spaces for art and fitness, a youth area, preschool space, multi-purpose rooms and a community living room. That proposal is an “excellent mix,” Girard said.
“The previous Harry Jerome design would have been under capacity for more than a decade,” she said. “To me, this does not make financial sense.”
Spending too much on the centre could reduce the city’s ability to provide childcare, bike lanes and other needed services and infrastructure, Girard concluded.
Coun. Holly Back expressed disappointment with the less ambitious rec centre after such a long wait.
“Stalling this project for so long has cost us a fortune,” she said. “I believe that we’re being irresponsible if we under-build.”
Back said it was a shortsighted decision to shrink the 50-metre pool to 26.5 metres while omitting the pool slide and five-metre diving platform.
A 50-metre pool would likely “create an oversupply of aquatic space in North Vancouver,” according to a city staff report. City staff estimated the larger pool would cost roughly $500,000 per year.
The larger pool would allow for the possibility of “swim meets and lessons simultaneously,” said Linda Sullivan, president of the North Shore Aquatics Society.
While the 10-lane pool is bigger than the current Harry Jerome pool, Sullivan beseeched council to consider that the centre might serve the community for the next 50 years.
Relative to much of the rest of the region, the North Shore is well served in terms of swimming pools, said Coun. Tina Hu.
“I don’t want to see the future tax hikes on our city residents solely to keep up with the operating expenses,” she said.
Even without a 50-metre pool and without curling, the centre will still cost in the neighbourhood of $200 million, said Mayor Linda Buchanan.
“This facility is one priority within a very progressive agenda,” Buchanan assured the gallery, which was largely composed of curlers come to make the case for their sport.
City staff noted statistics show “a modest decline” in curling, although Bell argued that decline could be attributable to fewer opportunities to curl rather than less interest.
The high capital and operating costs are “the most significant fact for it not being recommended for inclusion,” according to the staff report.
Referring to herself as “a very frustrated curler,” North Shore Curling Association director Linda Heese argued that curling fits with all the city’s goals for lifelong play and community connection.
“It’s a real community-building sport,” she said, noting she and many of her friends have been forced to curl in Vancouver recently.
The newly approved recommendations opt to save money by reducing the size of windows, shaving one floor from a building, and doing away with the rooftop walking track and tennis courts as well as a roof overhang which would have provided protection from the elements for skateboarders.
In advocating for a larger rec centre, Coun. Tony Valente noted Mayor Buchanan’s previous speech about the importance of community space.
“We’re basically replacing Harry Jerome with a like-for-like facility,” Valente said, suggesting the new centre may hit maximum capacity on Day 1.
“We will spend the next decade after that trying to find additional capacity,” he said.
In its recently completed recreation strategy, city staff noted the plethora of natural assets. However, outdoor activities are only valuable “when you can breathe outside,” Valente said, noting the frequency of wildfire smoke wafting over the city in the summer months.
The rec centre is important, but the city is also facing the housing and climate crises, Coun. Jessica McIlroy noted.
“Really, it is not possible to take it all on,” she said.
It’s important not to overly impact the residents near the centre or overly burden city taxpayers, Buchanan concluded.
“We want to look at future growth within the city ... and where we may potentially need to put another community centre.”
New design work and project management is expected to cost $700,000 – money previously earmarked for demolition and site servicing.
The redesign process is expected to take six to eight months to complete after which staff are slated to report back to council with the cost and design of the new centre.