The Nelson Neptunes are looking at their options after learning that they likely won't be able to use the aquatic centre as of next April.

Nelson pool renos put swim club season in doubt

A Nelson swim club could lose a second competitive season due to renovations at the aquatic centre.

A Nelson swim club could lose a second competitive season due to renovations at the aquatic centre.

The local recreation commission wants to begin work on the pool in April, despite a request from the Neptunes to wait until July, when they can begin swimming outdoors.

“Unfortunately it means us missing our competitive season next summer,” said club president Paul Cowan. “We lost our season two years ago and it just about killed the club. We brought it back this year only to be devastated again.”

The project, for which the Regional District of Central Kootenay will borrow up to $4.5 million over five years, is intended to fix numerous structural and mechanical deficiencies in the nearly 40-year old building. They were identified even before a section of ceiling tiles collapsed last year, resulting in a six-month closure of the facility, which wiped out the Neptunes’ season.

“We really value all the user groups, but if you’re talking about delaying a building project of that size, you may put yourself in a predicament,” rec commission chair Ramona Faust said.

Faust previously indicated the next round of renos would be done over the summer of 2015 to avoid interfering with swim programs. However, she now says that could jeopardize their ability to hire a contractor.

“If we wait to engage someone until June, we lose three months of the building cycle and reduce the chances of finding a prime contractor,” she said. “All that said, there may be a way for the contractor to leave the pool intact a little longer after we tender the project.”

A quantity surveyor suggested the project faces a one per cent increase in cost for every month it is put off. Faust said a request for proposals will likely go out over the winter so that a contractor is in place by April.

The Neptunes’ Cowan said the decision is “disheartening” after his board put in “so much blood, sweat and tears” to revive the club.

He said they are exploring other options, including swimming at the outdoor pool in Salmo, which is partly funded by the regional district, or using the Castlegar aquatic centre, which is already home to the Aquanauts swim team.

The Neptunes’ membership stood at 70 to 80, ages five to 18, before the previous aquatic centre closure but was down to about 50 this year. The club’s competitive season runs from the beginning of May until mid-August.

Kids are only allowed to swim a maximum of two hours per week from September until May in what is known as “maintenance” season. Although that would be able to continue, Cowan said without a competitive season to train for, most members wouldn’t see the point of practicing.

Faust said the majority of the facility’s swim revenue comes from pass holders and drop-ins, but Cowan said as the aquatic centre’s “biggest single customer, that doesn’t hold a lot of water for us.

“We were clicking along so well this year and have fabulous coaches who want to come back. It’s frustrating.”

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