The Castlegar and District Aquatic Centre celebrated its 25th anniversary on Saturday. Staff, both past and present, gathered at the Complex, alongside members of council and the community for a short program followed by cake and water sports for the kids.
The celebrations weren’t only for past accomplishments but upcoming plans for the facility as well. Mayor Lawrence Chernoff told the lively crowd about the city’s master plan to improve all of Castlegar’s recreational services.
“I’m excited about the future in our community,” the mayor began, “and looking forward to advancing this facility another 25 years. The main thing about that is the new master plan that’s in place. We’re just starting the process, which allows everyone to take part and see what we want to do for the future of this community. From the pool area to the rink to absolutely everything we do in the community.”
Manager of Recreation, Jim Crockett elaborated further.
He explained, consultants were working in December, before Christmas, setting up interviews with clubs and organizations that provide recreation opportunities within the community. They have compiled the information and the next step is to conduct a series of surveys. These surveys will be going out to all residents in the Castlegar area and Area I and J. Area H will also be receiving a survey unique to their area at the same time. The surveys should be sent out late January.
While this phase — the public consultation portion — is being carried out, consultants will be looking at what is being done in the rest of the province and taking a closer look at local operations.
“We want to create a real comprehensive plan that is going to guide us for the next 10 years or so,” Crockett said.
Aside from announcing the master plan, the afternoon was all about the facility and those who have helped make it such a wonderful addition to the city.
Crockett said, “Due to the sound construction and the care and babying of it by the aquatic staff and maintenance staff over the years it looks as good today as it did 25 years ago. The Castlegar and District Aquatic Centre has served the community well over the last 25 years and today we gather to commemorate those involved in the past and in the present keeping this facility strong for the future.”
Constituency Assistant, Gail Hunnisett was in attendance on behalf of MP Alex Atamanenko.
“Alex is so sorry he can’t be here today but he asked me to come bring with me, his regrets.”
“Whenever he does get a break from parliament and returns to Castlegar he makes frequent use of the community rec centre facilities. One of the perks of working for a very physically active MP is that he encourages all of his staff to take advantage of this particular facility. He provides us with fitness passes if we want them and he checks in with us regularly to make sure we’re getting to the gym or the pool.”
MLA Katrine Conroy was in attendance as well, offering her thoughts and congratulations on the facility’s birthday.
“I remember back when this was all being planned, my husband was a school trustee and he did a video on Shaw cable telling people they had to get out and support the referendum.”
Conroy’s children were quite young at the time and frequented the facility. She said it’s great to see her grandchildren getting the same use out of the centre.
“I want to thank the people from way back then for having the foresight to say ‘this is something that this community really needs,’ because I know there was a lot of opposition then and it’s been such a fabulous facility.”
The people from ‘way back then’ were there at the event as well. Her Former Worship, Audrey Moore; Chair of the Recreation Commission at the time, John Voykin; and Building Committee Chair, Ron Ross were among those reunited at the Aquatic Centre.
Ross made his way to the front of the crowd and while he tried to keep the speech as short as possible, his passion kept the stories coming.
“It’s just great that you and your staff have put this birthday party together, if for no other reason than for us that were on the building committee to get a chance to talk with one another again. We all agree on one thing. There’s absolutely no way this happened 25 years ago,” Ross laughed.
In the beginning, Ross was the one to draw up the original floor-plan for the centre, and to say the least, he was a little ambitious.
“I remember the first drawing I did. It had an eight lane 50 metre Olympic pool with a diving tank, racquetball court, hand ball court, squash courts, a dance studio, weight training, and the original estimate was somewhere between $5 – $10 million. [People] told us that they wouldn’t vote for that if we put it through in our referendum.”
So they ended up hiring the architect from Cranbrook who had previously designed the high school and the library. “Unfortunately he didn’t know squat about swimming pools,” said Ross.
The committee finally brought in a guy by the name of Ed, from Edmonton to do the pool design and the rest is history. “Wherever you are Ed, thank-you very much. You did a first-class job.”
Ross and the rest of the committee worked extremely hard to get the referendum to pass. The group took to the streets and questioned anyone that would give them the time. Needless to say, the referendum was passed.
The money to build the facility came from generous donations from local businesses and community members. Along with the list of names of people that purchased bricks, there is a Celgar goose in the tiles of the hot tub. At the time, Celgar also donated $50,000.
“[Celgar] said to us, if we give you money, how can we be recognized? So I promised them they would have the goose in the tile,” Ross said, “Then I phoned Ed and asked him if he could.”
Following the end of Ross’ speech came a short viewing of photos from the time all this was going on and a cake cutting ceremony. To the relief of all the kids there, the pool was then opened to swimming and the new Wibit pool toy was unveiled.