2016’s Top Stories #7: Swimmers dive into new pool

Renovations to the pool at the Nelson and District Community Complex were completed in the fall.

The renovations to the Nelson and District Community Complex pool were finally finished this year.

The renovations to the Nelson and District Community Complex pool were finally finished this year.

It took over a year to finish, but no one was complaining when they jumped into the new pool.

The aquatic centre at the Nelson and District Community Complex re-opened in October after 13 months of renovations. It’s already one of the most popular spots in Nelson, yet the road to the pool’s new look wasn’t straightforward.

Nelson’s pool was originally built in 1972 but had developed major issues over the years. The need for renovations was highlighted in 2013 when ceiling tiles fell and prompted the closure of the pool for six months.

Construction on the $5.2-million project began in September 2015 after a lengthy planning process. Then in February came an unexpected gift from the federal government — a $4.6-million grant, which meant taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook for the costly renos.

The money also meant that several design features that had been previously removed because they were deemed too expensive, such as an air recovery unit that recycled hot air or a new tile wall, could be built after all.

“A grant of this size is unheard of in this area,” said Mayor Deb Kozak.

Renovations continued through the summer until the workers encountered their first big hurdle in June. Rotting wood was found underneath the concrete floor of the cardio room, which occurred in part due to poor drainage from the NDCC parking lot, and cost $175,000 to repair.

That forced the moving of cardio machines, and their users, into the skating rink. When the Nelson Leafs opened their season in September, they did so with half the concourse closed off to people watching hockey on treadmills.

“It’s a lot of work and disappointment is a good way to describe it,” said NDCC manager Marty Benson. “The fact it has been found [means] we can repair it properly so we don’t have any surprises down the road. That’s the good part of all of this. But it was certainly unexpected and we didn’t think we’d be in a spot where we’d have that cardio area closed for an extended length of time.”

In August, while swimmers were being told to stay out of the water at Lakeside Park due to high levels of E. coli, good news came from the Recreation Commission — the pool would re-open Oct. 17, about a month later than scheduled.

That date ended up being moved another three days, but the ribbon was finally cut Oct. 20 to the relief of water lovers, swim clubs like the Nelson Neptunes, and local politicians.

The cleaner look included several new elements, including a wheelchair ramp, a new sauna and spray cannon as well as a diving plinth. New multi-purpose rooms were also added and the lifeguard station relocated.

“This has been a monumental task,” said Kozak.

“But now we have a facility that will last for 30, 40 years. It’s been amazing to see how some of the elements have changed to make it a better experience for swimmers. We are so grateful for all the work that’s been done to get to this point.”