Aquatic Facility Studies + FAQs

Numerous studies and reports have been undertaken concerning the City's Recreation Facilities. This summary highlights the principal findings from the latest research, including the Recreation Facility Program Review, which informs our current recommendations. For further exploration or detailed information, please click the "View the Aquatics Infrastructure Reports" button below.

Reports and Studies Overview 

  • In 2023, the City completed an Indoor Recreation Infrastructure Service Level Review, which found:
    • The Harbour Pool, built in 1982, and will require repairs soon to remain operational. The estimated cost to maintain the facility over the next decade is $5.3M, assuming no unexpected issues arise.
    • If significant issues arise during the next ten years it could trigger a major modernization of the Harbour Pool to meet:
      • new code ($2.1 million),
      • accessibility ($0.5 million),
      • Alberta Health Service ($3.5 million)
      These requirements could cost an estimated additional $6.1 million overall. Harbour Pool would likely be shut down during this period of this work.
    • A recommended Facility Program to address the City’s current and future indoor recreation service needs included enhancing service levels and amenities for leisure and program aquatics.
  • If an aquatic expansion is to occur its recommended to be at the Dow Centennial based on this option having the lowest capital and operational costs, the least amount of disruption to aquatics service and the most opportunity for enhanced accessibility.
  • Recently the City has been able to modernize (i.e., Curling Club, Jubilee Recreation Centre) or develop new recreation facilities (i.e., Gymnastic Centre, Taurus Field) without borrowing. Due to the dedicated capital recreation reserves being used for the recent projects, the funding of the aquatics expansion is not possible without borrowing.
  • For planning purposes, the entire project cost of a new, larger aquatics facility is based on borrowing. Should the project be approved, the City would actively seek all funding opportunities such as sponsorships, levies and grants from other orders of government to reduce borrowing and the tax burden.

View the Aquatics Infrastructure Reports

FAQ

Why is public input on aquatics services required now?

In 2023, City Council initiated a comprehensive review of indoor recreational infrastructure to understand the current state and future needs of aquatic facilities in Fort Saskatchewan. The review assessed Harbour Pool's condition, operational costs, and future service requirements. The review also recommended to enhance aquatic services by relocating them to the Dow Centennial Centre and Council is interested to know if there is public support for the project.

What is the current status of Harbour Pool and any future considerations?

Harbour Pool was built in 1982 and needs repairs soon to remain operational. The estimated cost to maintain the facility over the next decade is $5.3M, assuming no unexpected issues arise. If significant issues arise during this time, it could trigger a major modernization of Harbour Pool to meet code ($2.1 million), accessibility ($0.5 million) and Alberta Health Service ($3.5 million) requirements that could cost an estimated additional $6.1 million overall. Harbour Pool would likely be shut down for this work. 

How will aquatics services change if a new aquatics facility is built?

The new aquatics facility proposed for the Dow Centennial Centre would be nearly double the size of the existing Harbour Pool, and have an increase in available hours, amenities, and program capacities (e.g., swim lessons).

What is the current demand at Harbour Pool?

Harbour Pool is used to near maximum capacity within the current service level. The facility offers 91 hours of public access per week, about 4,300 hours per year. Ninety-four percent (94%) of available hours are used for swim lessons, lane swim and aqua fit, public swim, swim club and special bookings such as birthday parties and school bookings. In 2023, there were approximately 100,000 swim visits including 36,000 swim lessons with 1,950 participants on program waitlists.

Why was the Dow Centennial Centre chosen as the location for a new aquatics facility?

City Council considered various options for expanding aquatic services, including maintaining and expanding Harbour Pool, renovating and maintaining Harbour Pool while expanding at the Dow Centennial Centre and relocating aquatics to the Dow Centennial Centre. The relocation of aquatics services to the Dow Centennial Centre was selected for its lower costs, operational efficiency, and minimal disruption. A two-pool option was deemed impractical due to higher expenses and staffing needs.

Why is the City including an aquatics question on the 2024 Census?

To gauge public support for a new aquatics facility at the Dow Centennial Centre, a question will be added to the 2024 Census to allow each household to provide a response. This approach allows widespread community participation and feedback within the existing approved budget, offering a cost-effective method for public engagement.

The Census can be completed online or with an enumerator and has the lowest cost with the highest response rate compared to other methods considered.

How does the 2024 Census question differ from the 2017 Aquatics Vote?

 The 2017 vote considered the addition of a new facility to complement Harbour Pool. The current proposal recommends replacing Harbour Pool with a new larger facility at the Dow Centennial Centre.

What will happen to the Harbour Pool site if the pool is closed?

Pending the decision on a new aquatics facility, a comprehensive assessment and feasibility study will determine the best use of the Harbour Pool site. Options include repurposing for community use or decommissioning. Repurposing the Harbour Pool from an aquatics facility to a state that could be used as a potential community asset would cost approximately $2 -3 million. This type of approach has been successful in other communities to achieve a variety of purposes. The City would ensure the site's redevelopment aligns with local needs and values.

Potential demolition costs for the facility are $500,000, including grading the site, capping underground utilities and general site remediation and removal of materials. This would allow the entire site to be repurposed.

How much will my taxes increase if we build a new aquatics facility?

Based on our best estimates:

Residential (based on an average home value of $412,925): $236/year

  • Capital portion: $151
  • Operating portion: $85

Non-residential (based on a non-residential property value of $1,006,607): $1,039/year

  • Capital portion: $664
  • Operating portion: $375

This would be introduced over multiple years to coincide with borrowing requirements. The full property tax impact would not come into full effect until the new facility was open, likely in 4-5 years.

How will the new aquatics facility connect to the Dow Centennial Centre?
The design phase will explore how best to connect the new aquatics facility to the Dow Centennial Centre, considering location and integration with existing facilities. This process would only happen if Council decided to proceed with the new aquatics facility.
Is the proposed new aquatics facility large enough to accommodate our projected population growth?
With the population of Fort Saskatchewan expected to exceed 47,000 by 2040, the proposed new aquatics facility is designed to accommodate significant growth. The proposed aquatics facility offers increased capacity and lesson spaces to meet the community's current and future needs.
What funding and tax implications are being anticipated for the new aquatics facility?
The construction and operation of the new aquatics facility will see phased tax increases, aligning with borrowing requirements and ensuring fiscal responsibility. City staff will look at all possible funding options that include but are not limited to future industrial development within our region, off-site levies, donations, sponsorships, and provincial and federal grant funding.
What are the next steps in the decision-making process?

The results from the census question will inform Council decisions on proceeding with the design and potential construction of the new aquatics facility. The process includes a phased approach to design, cost estimation, and final construction approval, with considerations for repurposing or decommissioning Harbour Pool. If Council chooses not to proceed, the City will continue to maintain and operate Harbour Pool.

What about other City projects that require funding?

The City's strategic approach to capital projects, including debt management and future planning, ensures a balanced and sustainable investment in community infrastructure, considering current service levels and community growth.

City Debt: Based on the City's Debt Management Policy the City has a self-imposed borrowing limit of $104.9 million, and currently has $23.3 million in debt. There are several potential capital projects coming up in the next five years including planning for a new arena in 2029.

City Council will be giving final approval for the capital budget in Spring 2024, which will affirm the expenditures for the 2024 Capital Budget.

What is the projected cost of the proposed new aquatics facility over its lifetime?

The new aquatic facility's cost is evaluated in terms of capital investment, annual operating expenses, and the cost to taxpayers over a 40-year lifecycle, offering a comprehensive view of the financial implications for the community.

Estimated capital costs are $54.0 million, which for planning purposes is to be paid over 30 years (approximate payments of $3.6 million annually with $1.5 million coming from residential taxes and $2.1 million from non-residential taxes). Estimated operating costs are $3.7 million per year for the life of the facility not including annual inflationary increases (this includes Harbour Pool’s current operating cost of $1.7 million per year).

Totalling all these costs in 2023 dollars over 40-years is referred to as net present value (NPV) and in this case amounts to tax support of $220 million over what is collected from users fees during this time. This NPV calculation considers all the financial aspects of the new aquatics facility, such as borrowing, operating the facility (i.e., staffing, utilities, equipment replacement, repairs and maintenance, supplies and materials, insurance, and building maintenance and repairs), accounting for inflation, and generating revenue over this time period.

This is equivalent to taking all the costs associated with purchasing and maintaining a property (e.g., mortgage payments, property tax, utilities, insurance, general upkeep and repairs and replacements of the roof, furnace, hot water tank, windows, and appliances, etc. over the time you anticipate owning the home in today’s dollars. This helps you understand not just the purchase price and monthly payments, but also the total cost of owning, taking care of and living in the property.

Why has the cost estimate for the proposed new aquatics facility increased since it was first discussed with Council? 
Recent updates to the cost estimates for the new aquatics facility reflect inflation and project timelines, ensuring accurate planning and budgeting as the project moves forward. 
Will the proposed new aquatics facility be accessible and inclusive to all residents? 
The City will incorporate inclusive design principles to ensure the new aquatics facility is accessible to individuals of all ages and abilities. To accommodate a wide range of needs and preferences, features such as wheelchair-accessible entrances, adaptive equipment for those with mobility challenges, inclusive changing spaces, and adapted programs will be included. 
Have alternative uses for the Harbour Pool site been considered if it is to be decommissioned? 
A more thorough needs assessment and feasibility study should be completed. At a high level the Harbour Pool could be repurposed, and this type of approach has been successful in other communities to achieve a variety of purposes. The City would ensure the site's redevelopment aligns with local needs and values. 
How does the new aquatics facility fit into the City's broader recreational and community development plans?
The new aquatics facility is a key component of the city's Recreation Facilities and Parks Master Plan Update (2015) for comprehensive recreational services, supporting healthy lifestyles and community well-being. It complements existing facilities and programs, aligning with long-term plans for population growth, urban development, and enhancing the quality of life for Fort Saskatchewan residents.

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