In 2016, the Park Board began work on a 25-year city-wide aquatics strategy called VanSplash. It was completed in December of 2017.
The resulting strategy includes recommendations to build several new pools.
The strategy includes a 10-year timeline that proposes building a city-wide indoor destination pool with a sport training focus at Connaught Park for swim team training and competitions. (Sources at end.)
The proposal involves tearing down the Kitsilano Community Centre and/or arena and rebuilding one or both in a new, up to 160,000 square foot facility.
It would be built where the community centre, rink and parking lots are, or potentially on the east side of Connaught Park.
If it were built on the east side, the community centre, rink and parking lots would be removed and replaced with greenspace, once the new facility was built.
On Dec 11, 2017, Park Board General Manager Malcolm Bromley stated that an entirely new facility is preferred. The proposed facility is estimated to cost $135 – $165 million.
LACK OF PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE
In January of 2018, Kits residents who heard about the megapool plan at the Lord Byng pool spoke out in the media about the lack of knowledge of the plan in Kits.
The Park Board solicited feedback in the fall of 2017 on Vanpslash’s dozens of draft recommendations that proposed specific sites for new indoor pools, including the Kits megapool, and other aquatic amenities.
In this phase of public engagement, the Park Board received feedback from 1,648 people city-wide who voluntarily completed a 12-question online survey. Two of the questions were about the proposed new indoor pools, and they were addressed together as an overarching plan.
Half of the 1,648 respondents completed the survey because they had signed up with the City of Vancouver’s “Talk Vancouver”, which sends surveys to its email list. No public outreach events were held in Kitsilano at the time. Only 35% of respondents to this survey said that they think the indoor pool plans will improve indoor aquatic services in Vancouver.
On January 29, 2018, the Park Board Commissioners had their first meeting to address the numerous recommendations in the vast strategy, which were first presented to them on December 11, 2017.
The Commissioners suggested some significant changes to the original recommendations, by amending them, and referred them back to staff for further consideration. They were made in response to public feedback, and included plans for community engagement with Kitsilano.
A “potential new future destination pool with a sport training focus at Connaught Park” was still being considered in the 10-year strategy.
Park Board staff communicated in March of 2018 that the revised report, intended to be released in March or April, would provide both an outline and a timeline for upcoming proposed public and stakeholder engagement in Kits.
After the revised report would have been released, then the Park Board Commissioners would have had a public meeting again, likely in April or May, to address what it proposed.
The original recommendation set out a timeline that would have seen planning and design for the proposed Kits facility start in 2019. Construction would start in 2023 and last approximately 2 years. It is not clear if this timeline will carry forward.
The VanSplash plan originally asked that the Commissioner’s approve the strategy and endorse the 10-year implementation plan “as the basis for making submissions to the City’s 2019 – 2028 Capital Strategic Outlook and 2019-2022 Capital Plan processes.”
UNEXPECTED CHANGE IN PLANS
On April 5, 2018, the Park Board unexpectedly changed its plans and announced that it will “invite an external advisory committee to assist in developing a revised version of VanSplash, the Board’s long-term aquatics strategy for Vancouver.”
The Park Board is set to seek applicants for this advisory committee, which intends to have a maximum of 20 members. Participants will be limited to pool users. Selection starts Mon, November 26, 2018 and runs for two weeks. To apply or find out more, see the Park Board website.
The committee will review the initial recommendation and the amendments that Park Board commissioners made to the original plan. It is not clear whether there will be consultation with Kits about the proposed facility prior to the plan returning to the board for approval in 2019.
The overarching strategy of the city-wide policy includes building more destination facilities that draw people from across the city to individual neighbourhoods.
The strategy initially included plans to demolish two neighbourhood pools, Lord Byng and Templeton, but those communities fought to keep them open and they are now being considered for renovation.
Some people have suggested that neighbourhood facilities are of greater value than destination ones as citizens have recreational and social amenities closer to where they live that better foster and sustain community connections.
SPECIFIC CHANGES PROPOSED FOR KITS
The initial recommendation that the board was asked to approve is: ” Provide a new City-wide Destination pool with a sport training focus at Connaught Park as part of a future arena and/or community centre renewal. This facility would replace and improve the sport training capacity of the Vancouver Aquatic Centre and would consider potential for hosting competitions at a level that the site can accommodate as part of the detailed planning.
The amended recommendation that commissioners sent to staff to have them explore is:
“Recognizing the opportunity for a cohesive program delivery model at the current pools at the Vancouver Aquatic Centre (VAC) and Kitsilano Beach Park and a potential future new destination pool with a sport training focus at Connaught Park, initiate a comprehensive planning process to review how these three facilities could be best integrated, taking into consideration: current state of the facilities; potential for short-term refit or renovation to accommodate sport or leisure needs; innovative possibilities to increase the seasonal usage at Kitsilano outdoor pool; and an analysis of the costs of renovation of VAC in comparison with the build costs of a new facility.
In addition to this staff process, conduct a thorough and complete engagement process to inform and involve the community in the planning of this new destination pool at the Connaught Park/Kitsilano Community Centre site.”
- VanSplash, the aquatics strategy that includes this plan for Kits.
- Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Courier articles about poor consultation in Kits – January 2018
- Vancouver Courier story about sudden change in plans and advisory committee – April 2018
- Our background stories: Insufficient public engagement and Initial proposal for Kits
- Media coverage of January 29, 2018 Park Board meeting
- Information about inadequate consultation in dozens of Vancouver neighbourhoods: Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods
- December 2017 first recommendation for Kits: Page 4, section 1.5
- Pay Parking: Slide 64
- Cost of facility: Slide 64
- Location possibly east side of park: Minute 38:10 of video
- General Manager’s statements re nature of facility: Minute 58:50 of video
- Plan seeks Park Board Commissioner’s approval of 10-year strategy as basis of capital planning submissions : Slide 2; Page 1, section B
- Timeline for planning and construction: Slide 62
- Email from VanSplash project manager suggesting public consultation in Kits – available upon request (email us)
- Second phase of public engagement 1,648 people half who heard about it from Talk Vancouver: Pages 18 & 130
- Second phase of engagement online survey questions: Page 124
- Instructions to staff to create a renewed plan for Kits: Page 2, section 1.5