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Operations going swimmingly at new pools

By Don Fennell

Published 12:11 PST, Fri November 26, 2021

Last Updated: 2:57 PST, Fri November 26, 2021

This is the fourth in a series exploring Minoru Park’s history and amenities.

On the heels of the heavily-favoured Ohio State Buckeyes’ 10-7 victory over upstart Oregon Webfoots in the 44th edition of college football’s Rose Bowl game in Pasadena on New Year’s Day 1958, Richmond set forth plans to build upon its own sporting legacy.

Soon after acquiring “Section 8” (the Brighouse Park Racetrack) from the B.C. Turf and Country Club, construction began on Centennial Pool in Minoru Park. (Centennial Park was the name given to the park before it was renamed Minoru in 1960.)

Originally an outdoor facility, the pool—which opened in 1959 and became known as Minoru Aquatic Centre in 1977 upon the opening of an indoor complex—served the residents of Richmond for the better part of five decades. It is currently being demolished following the opening of new pools in September 2020 as part of the Minoru Centre for Active Living.

Given the popularity of swimming in the community, and the ever-increasing use of previously-existing facilities at Watermania in the Riverport Park complex at No. 5 and Triangle roads, the new pools at Minoru have been enthusiastically welcomed by the public. To date, the city estimates an average of 1,300 to 1,500 people a day use the pools along with the fitness facilities.

“This is the highest level since we opened, and we are no longer at any reduced capacity for the pool,” explains city spokesperson Clay Adams. “As more people become vaccinated and continue to adhere to public health protocols such as proof of vaccination and masks, we expect the numbers to remain steady if not increase.”

The aquatic centre offers six bodies of water for all ages and abilities. Features include a leisure pool with a river run, slide and rain shower; two 25-metre pools with a total of 14 lanes for lane swimming and aqua fit classes; Canada’s largest hot tub; an adult hot pool; a polar plunge cold pool set at 15 degrees Celsius; steam room and saunas; a rock climbing wall; a drop slide with a 1.5 metre free-fall drop into the water; and a diving board.

While the story of the new aquatic centre is just beginning, its predecessor—which was located mere steps away—enjoyed both a lengthy and notable history. For a time it also housed at least two swim clubs, and served as the first home base for many elite swimmers of the future, including Olympic and Paralympic athletes Brian Johns and Walter Wu respectively.

So what will become of the space where the old pool once stood? That has yet to be determined, but Coun. Linda McPhail says she has always favoured converting it to green space.

“At the time when the location of the new Minoru Centre for Active Living was chosen, I and most of the council of the day believed that,” she says. “Over the years there have been many discussions on repurposing, but the costs were prohibitive.”

At the Feb. 8, 2021 council meeting, a motion passed to demolish the pool and convert it back to green space. McPhail believes the space can serve as an “excellent” entry point to the park.

A popular recreational and cultural precinct in the heart of City Centre, Minoru Park has undergone many recent changes as has the neighbourhood surrounding it. McPhail says the Minoru Park Vision Plan provides an opportunity to take a holistic approach to planning its future renewal and evolution. She says everything from green space to parking and enhancing pedestrian and roller access will be explored. The plan is expected to be back before council soon, perhaps even before the end of this year.

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