The City of Victoria is moving ahead with a project plan preparing for a possible city-wide vote on the Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre’s future.
Council on Thursday (March 9) voted to put $1.78 million from this year’s budget towards the facility’s replacement project after a years-long effort to replace the current building was put on hold at the onset of the pandemic.
While it’s a popular aquatic and recreation site, the Crystal Pool building faces accessibility and infrastructure issues and the city says there’s more value in replacing it than spending millions annually on renovations.
Council last month asked for a report looking into organizing a city referendum that would ask a binding question on the public’s willingness to borrow the capital funds needed for a new facility. A non-binding portion of the referendum would ask where the centre should go and what features it should include.
That report, presented Thursday, said the current facility is no longer meeting the needs of the community, its components are at or near the end of their life and it’s the largest greenhouse gas emitter among city-owned facilities.
The $1.78 million in funding will come from the city’s Building and Infrastructure Reserve. Those costs relate to the need for external technical consulting on plans for the many infrastructure components of a new building.
“Our goal is to have the most dynamic, inclusive and exciting recreation facility on Vancouver Island,” parks, recreational and facilities director Thomas Soulliere said at the March 9 committee meeting.
Any referendum on the recreational spot’s future would be held in 2024, staff’s report said, as a feasibility and design study is expected to take until the third quarter of next year. A vote on moving ahead with the referendum would happen after the study’s results are presented.
The city in the meantime will work on confirming two to four site options, facility designs and associated costs that would be listed in the referendum.
Council has also required that any referendum be contingent on: the possible sites being in or adjacent to the North Park neighbourhood; voters getting a high-level view of the expected costs and features; that climate, equity and accessibility lenses be applied; and that options include community amenities and aquatic features.
Under council’s approved plan, projects including the Crystal Garden decarbonization systems design, the green buildings strategy and the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre chiller replacement will be deferred by about a year due to work capacity.
Staff said Thursday that since Crystal Pool emits 40 per cent of all emissions from city-owned buildings, replacing it would cover a large component of the green buildings strategy.
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