Delta swimmers push for new pool
“Just keep swimming” is the advice given by Dory in the new summer blockbuster film by Pixar, but kids living in Delta might find that difficult.
According to Dave Colter, a member of the South Delta Swim Society, they have 550 swimmers and close to an equal amount on wait lists to get into the various swim clubs in Delta.
“We’ve reached a point where we no longer can grow and we actually can’t even sustain what we have,” explains Dave. “We can’t bring the next generation of swimmers into the clubs because we don’t have any room to accommodate them.”
It is a particularly difficult problem right now for the two summer swim clubs that have historically welcomed new kids into the sport.
“That’s where we’re missing the boat. They don’t even advertise when registration opens because they know that they can’t accommodate anybody.”
There are really only two places to swim in South Delta most of the year, the 40-year-old facilities at Winskill Park in Tsawwassen, and the nearly 25-year-old Ladner Leisure Centre. And although swimming is still available at those locations, the focus is on leisure swimming and not competition training.
Jennifer Wilson, president of the Ladner Stingrays swim club, says they currently have 162 swimmers and are struggling to squeeze in any more. She says that a few weeks ago they were allocated just two lanes of space for 130 swimmers at the Ladner Outdoor Pool.
“We have a waiting list of four to six years olds who want to get in here but we have to keep telling them, nope, we’ll have to wait and see if somebody drops out.”
Michelle Rapier, past president of the Boundary Bay Bluebacks swim club and current secretary with the Winskill Dolphins, says it’s “concerning on a lot of levels” that swimmers have nowhere to go.
The clubs are even forced to rent pool space in Richmond for training. As for swim meets? Forget it. They can’t be held in Delta at all.
Michelle is an assistant regional director of the Fraser South Region of B.C. Summer Swimming Association and says while Ladner’s outdoor pool adds some extra capacity in the summer it’s not enough. In fact, it’s a problem not just in Delta but across Metro Vancouver.
“We arguably have the best climate in Canada but have the fewest outdoor swimming pools of all the major cities in the country.”
But despite the obvious problems facing swimmers there’s a good news plan in the works to address it.
The South Delta Swim Society is proposing a solution to this capacity shortfall, asking all levels of government to help contribute to an $8 million, 10-lane swim facility dedicated solely to training and competitions.
Although $8 million may sound like a lot of money, Dave says when put into context with infrastructure upgrades made in other cities it’s quite reasonable. UBC is finishing up a $38.5 million aquatic facility, South Surrey recently finished their Grandview Heights facility for $53 million, while Guildford’s newest pool was $38.6 million.
The South Delta Swim Society believes Delta will recoup a lot of the money in tourism dollars by hosting swim meets, which can bring up to 700 swimmers and their families to the area. The Delta School District has also indicated they have high hopes for such a facility to add a swim academy for the high school kids.
Michelle says they’ve seen some interest from politicians in the form of Delta MP Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities in the Trudeau government, and herself a former paralympic swimmer. As well, her daughter is a member of the Ladner Stingrays swim club.
Jennifer says swimming is a great sport for kids who don’t fit into the team sports model but offers a great social component nonetheless.
“The kids are hanging out together, making these lifelong friendships and they have these summertime memories,” she says.
With the support of the community and government perhaps this story will have a happy Pixar ending, too.