TWO former Olympic swimmers warn the Sherbrook Pool is not the only city aquatic facility at risk of closure due to long-term neglect.
Former Olympians Rhiannon Leier Blacher and Michelle Lischinsky said the inner-city pool's closure highlights the lack of investment in routine maintenance of city pools, adding it's a problem that's "decades in the making."
Leier Blacher, who coaches the St. James Seals, said some city pools, including the Pan Am Pool, have problems such as chipped tiles, broken lane lines, "brown mouldy stuff" in the training tank, and showers, sinks and water fountains that don't work.
She and Lischinsky recently sent a letter to Mayor Sam Katz urging the city to develop a plan to reopen the Sherbrook Pool as soon as possible and ensure aquatic facilities are maintained so young people have access to the same opportunities they did.
"I definitely wasn't surprised. I've been to that pool before, I've swam there and it's very old," said Leier Blacher, who represented Canada in the 2000 Games in Sydney and the 2004 Games in Athens. "It would be nice to keep (pools) maintained on a regular basis so we don't get to that point."
The former elite athletes are the latest people to join a push to get the city to reopen the inner-city pool. Filmmaker Guy Maddin also sent a letter to the mayor saying he's "extremely saddened" by the possible closure, and Friends of the Sherbrook Pool and several city councillors have urged council's executive policy committee to include funding for pool repairs in its 2013 budget.
The mayor and executive policy committee will vote on any amendments to this year's capital and operating budgets at a meeting today.
Winnipeg's 2013 operating budget calls for the city to spend $10.4 million on its indoor aquatic facilities, $2.2 million of which will be devoted to repairs at the Cindy Klassen Recreation Complex, Margaret Grant Pool and Pan Am Pool.
The Sherbrook Pool was built in the 1930s and closed in November after inspectors discovered 10 pillars supporting the roof had eroded. City officials said the pool's superintendent initially noticed paint peeling on the concrete tiles that encase the pillars. An engineer found corrosion hidden beneath the tiles.
The city has since cancelled all swimming lessons at the pool, forcing patrons and the Sherbrook Sharks Swimming Club to use the Cindy Klassen Recreation Complex pool.
Facility-condition reports reveal parts of the Sherbrook Pool have deteriorated to the point they have been deemed antiquated or beyond their "useful life." Documents show the pool's heating, cooling, electrical system and plumbing are considered "aged," and the facility's roof, exterior doors, floor and wall finishes are all past their lifespan.
Lischinsky, who competed at the 2000 Olympic Games, said pools are expensive to maintain, but proper upkeep will help ensure local athletes and recreational swimmers continue to have access to the sport. She said the city could look at ways to prioritize its spending and questioned why the Pan Am Pool's lobby would be refurbished before its main training tank.