Hasty budget cuts have led the City of Calgary to announce the closure of the Beltline and Inglewood Aquatic & Fitness Centres at the end of this year
As part of the $60 million budget cuts announced this summer, the City of Calgary is planning to close the Beltline Aquatic & Fitness Centre and the Inglewood Aquatic Centre, both staple recreation assets in the Beltline and Inglewood communities.
Of the $1.5 million being cut from City of Calgary Recreation, $800,000 is proposed to come from closing the Beltline and Inglewood centres. However, it makes no sense for the City to expect Beltline and Inglewood to shoulder more than half the entire City's cuts to Recreation.
The Beltline Aquatic & Fitness Centre has been serving residents in the Beltline since 1954 when it was first opened by the YMCA. In 1979, the City took over the operations from the YMCA and completed major $1.2 million in renovations in 2014 to update the centre and improve accessibility.
Centrally located in the heart of the Beltline, the Beltline Aquatic and & Fitness Centre today hosts a four-lane swimming pool, dry sauna, outdoor climbing wall, cardio and weight room, full-size gymnasium with an indoor basketball court, and modern change rooms with private stalls.
City used questionable criteria in decision to close the Beltline and Inglewood recreation centres
The new 284,000 square foot Shane Homes YMCA in Rocky Ridge cost the City of Calgary $192 million.
The Beltline Neighbourhoods Association and the Inglewood Community Association have met together with the City of Calgary Recreation Department responsible for the decision to close these facilities. In their analysis, the City of Calgary focused their criteria for closing these centres primarily on the number of users and cost-return per user at the centres compared to newer facilities. A newer upgraded recreation centre for the Centre City is currently not planned for several decades into the future.
However small and outdated, the Beltline Aquatic & Fitness Centre and the Inglewood Aquatic Centre provide important local access to recreation opportunities for vulnerable communities including seniors, after-school youth and indigneouns programs. These facilities also broadly support populations who cannot afford vehicles or are unable to easily drive to more far-flung, new recreation centres.
Lastly, the decision to close these facilities in Beltline and Inglewood made no consideration of the Beltline and Inglewood’s contributions towards the City’s Municipal Development Plan (MDP) goals of 50/50 growth in existing and new communities. Nor did the City’s decision factor in the disproportionately large residential and business taxes the Beltline and Inglewood contribute towards the City of Calgary’s general revenues.
In the Beltline alone, new developments opening in the next year alone will contribute millions of new dollars in tax revenue for the City.
No cuts to the yet to be built 14 new communities
While the $60 million budget cut by the City was across the board for police, fire, and all services to existing communities, what was most surprising was what the cut did not affect: the City’s $12 million per year subsidies to build 14 new communities that have still yet to be built. This despite the latest statistics showing a slowing rate of population growth in Calgary.
City pools in Acadia, Foothills, Glenmore, Killarney and Shouldice could be next on the chopping block
With more budget cuts of equal or greater magnitude expected in 2020 and 2021, and the City’s increasing cost-return targets for aging public pool facilities, it’s likely that the City of Calgary will be looking at closing other similar public aquatic and fitness facilities including Acadia, Foothills, Glenmore, Shouldice and Killarney. When asked, City of Calgary Recreation representatives were unable to confirm or deny if other recreation facilities would be closed next.
A lesson from the recent past: more time should be allowed to save our pools
Forest Lawn Outdoor Pool and several other public outdoor pools were saved back in 2004 when the City gave a 2-year moratorium on closures to allow time for alternative operating solutions to be found.
If the City of Calgary is serious about getting out of the business of operating older public pool and recreation facilities we can look to the success of the not-for-profit Calgary Outdoor Swimming Pools Association, which formed the solution to saving eight of the City’s outdoor swimming pools back in 2004 when the City proposed similar closures due to budget constraints. At that time, City Council listened to the communities and the public and granted a 2-year moratorium on the closures of the pools to allow time for solutions to be found.
This summer, City Council granted just 4 months notice before the closure of the Beltline and Inglewood Aquatic & Fitness Centres. More time and resources are needed to allow for a sustainable transition for these facilities to continue to support our communities. A one-year moratorium on the closure of these pools would go a long way to allowing the opportunity for solutions to be found.
How you can help Save YYC Pools!
Here’s how you can help us secure the future of the Beltline and Inglewood Aquatic & Fitness Centres and pools across the City including Acadia, Foothills, Glenmore, Shouldice and Killarney that could be next on the chopping.
1. Sign the petition
Visit saveyycpools.com to sign the petition that is already 3000+ strong.
2. Email City Council
Take a minute to email City Council and ask them to allow a reasonable amount of time for solutions to be found for these facilities.
3. Share this post
Share this post on social media with that hashtag #saveyycpools.
4. Attend the public hearing the City's budget on Monday, November 25
Attend the City's Budget public hearing Monday, November 25th starting at 9:30am to voice your support for Beltline and Inglewood Aquatic & Fitness Centres in the main Council Chambers at City Hall.