A new replacement facility for Vancouver Aquatic Centre (VAC) in downtown Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood could feature a retractable roof.
NPA Vancouver city councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung, who was a park board commissioner from 2014 to 2018, made the revelation on Twitter over the weekend.
“This could become a jewel with a new design that opens up panoramic views, has a retractable roof, incorporates wellness amenities, and [offers] greater capacity,” she wrote.
Early-stage planning for a replacement facility has been undertaken over the last few years through the park board’s aquatic strategy of identifying facilities in need of renewal or replacement. This strategy is expected to reach completion this year.
The 1974-built aquatic centre is outdated and aging, and by the time funding is secured and planning and design is finalized for the construction of a replacement facility, VAC could be well over 50 years old.
A park board report in 2017 deemed plans for a new aquatic centre at Connaught Park in Kitsilano and a replacement for VAC as significant “city-wide destination pools” with plentiful amenities and features. At the time, early estimates for the cost of new VAC facility were pegged at $70 million.
A retractable roof for this new facility, which is south-facing and on the water’s edge at the easternmost end of Sunset Beach, would likely fit this description for a pool facility of this calibre.
As well, it reverses previous reports earlier in the decade that a replacement VAC could be located elsewhere in the downtown peninsula.
Kirby-Yung’s comments were a part of a series of tweets in response to concerns expressed over the weekend by the public and some elected officials after Daily Hive first reported of the municipal government’s plans to launch a master planning process for a large West End waterfront area, including all of English Bay Beach and Sunset Beach and the roadways immediately adjacent to the beach.
Over Twitter, NPA park board commissioner said both city council and the park board were “in the dark” over city and park board staff’s request for expression of interest for a design contractor to conduct the master planning process.
Others were also concerned that the main body of the municipal government was overstepping on park board jurisdiction, but this is not the case, she explained, as the “park board currently has a shared services model with the city, which means that when RFPs/RFEOIs are issued they are done through the city.”
Furthermore, the master planning process would require both the park board and city council’s final approval, as it falls in both of their jurisdictions (English Bay and Sunset beaches are under the park board; Beach Avenue and other area streets are under city council). The award of the master plan contractor would also require the approval of the park board.
Kirby-Yung also noted that the master planning process should not come as a surprise, given that there is an approved line in the 2019 capital budget of $1 million for the project’s early planning.
“This is being mischaracterized as a jurisdiction infringement. From my point of view, this is more about ensuring key discussions [happen] with elected officials and staff with new park board commissioners and city councillors for their respective roles, to confirm priorities before moving forward with RFEOI’s/RFP’s,” she wrote.
“What should happen in my opinion is for park board staff to brief new park board commissioners on the master planning goal and affirm if there’s support and board agreement on project and goals before issuing RFEOI.”
The RFEOI stated there was a need to create a single cohesive plan to renew the highly-used spaces and facilities at English Bay and Sunset beaches, spanning an area of 95 acres. According to the procurement document, city staff believe there is a need for renewal given that the park and beach facilities are aging, and certain spaces and designs are increasingly inadequate for changing needs, especially with the expectation that the West End will see 18,000 more residents over the coming decades.
“Bottom line, English Bay and Sunset Beach are iconic, beloved park and green spaces. They need to remain protected as permanent park space. This exercise should be about ensuring they provide enjoyment and recreation for decades and beyond for all residents,” wrote Kirby-Yung.
“We don’t spend enough time and put enough priority on infrastructure renewal… which means our facilities like the seawall and aquatic centre are crumbling and don’t have enough money set aside.”
On the matter of a new VAC, the RFEOI provides the following detail on the project:
“Based on the outcome of the Aquatic Strategy later this year, the masterplan will guide the siting of the new location, footprint and access to the facility within Sunset Beach Park.”