A bitter feud between city hall and the Aquatic Hall of Fame has ended with the resolution of a 2007 lawsuit over the hall’s eviction from the Pan Am Pool.
Luke Small, chairman of the Aquatics Hall board, said he’s looking forward to partnering with city hall for the display of thousands of pieces of memorabilia that has sat in boxes for eight years.
"It’s hard not to be bitter but I want to work as well as we can with (city hall) so that both us of benefit," Small said.
City council approved a settlement of the lawsuit, which includes a $250,000 cash settlement, allows the hall to display its collection on the interior walls of the Pan Am Pool in new display cases provided and installed by the city at a cost of $600,000, and gives the hall exclusive use of the gallery space.
The Aquatic Hall of Fame and Museum of Canada housed memorabilia from the country’s four pool sports: speed swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming.
Small said the settlement is a testimony to the dedication of the board’s late chairman, Vaughan Baird, and other board members who died while waiting for the resolution of the dispute.
"Vaughan always said the city was waiting for him to die before they’d settle," Small said.
Baird, a former diver and international diving judge and constitutional lawyer, died in August.
The Aquatic Hall of Fame and Museum had been part of the Pan Am Pool since the facility was constructed in 1967. It’s memorabilia — which included Pierre Trudeau’s swimming trunks, paintings of Olympic swimmer Alex Baumann, medals that once belonged to Winnipegger Reta Tustin, a swimming phenomenon from the 1920s and 1930s, the world’s largest collection of Olympic posters — lined the walls of the running track and later was featured in the gallery, an addition built in 1999.
The hall was evicted in 2006 allegedly over insurance, which city officials at the time insisted the hall should provide but which Baird said was the city’s responsibility.
The hall launched a suit in 2007, seeking $21 million in damages.
A report to council this week revealed that Baird was right all along -- the hall had turned over its collection to the city in 1973, which in turn agreed to make the pool the hall’s permanent home and insure the collection.
Baird alleged the dispute was a ruse for the city to acquire the gallery space and turn it over to recreational users, which did happen.
Mayor Sam Katz said those groups — which includes lawn bowlers, yoga practitioners and triathalon athletes — will have to find other accommodations for their training.
Small said the hall will not return to the Pan Am Pool until Oct. 1, adding the board will use the intervening time to categorize its collection and plan a proper display.
Small said the hall will be contacting pool groups across the country to let them know they will be back in business, adding he hopes the hall will be able to expand its collection with more recent acquisitions.