Each new spray pad could trigger the closure of up to five wading pools in some areas, if city council approves a new "rationalization" strategy.
A public service report proposes that between one and five wading pools could be slated for closure when a new spray pad is recommended, any time that occurs in an area where multiple wading pools are located within one or two kilometres of the site.
The report suggests exact closures should be based on usage, condition and proximity to the new spray pad.
Coun. Sherri Rollins, council’s protection, community services and parks chairperson, said spray pads offer better value than wading pools.
"You’re taking very young children around a wading pool and certainly the service level of that, i.e. the amount of hours you can spend at a wading pool... is super finite compared to a service like a spray pad," said Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry).
The report says most of Winnipeg’s 81 wading pools are "at or near the end of their useful service life," and no longer meet accessibility standards.
Rollins said she expects the prospect of closing multiple wading pools will trigger plenty of debate, particularly for wading pools located close to schools or community centres.
"That, as recreational space, is really critical and that’s why, ultimately, I think you’re not going to see as much enthusiasm for (it)," she said.
By contrast, Coun. Scott Gillingham (St. James) said he supports the strategy.
"Rather than just adding spray pads in areas where there’s already plenty of wading pools, it is, I think, a better investment and a better use of limited dollars to rationalize, where appropriate, the wading pools," said Gillingham, council’s finance chairperson.
Others argue the strategy threatens to simply cut services and jobs for Winnipeggers.
Gord Delbridge, president of CUPE local 500, said each wading pool is staffed by one or two employees, so the change could trigger job losses and limit recreation access.
Joe Curnow, who has advocated against recreation cuts, said she expects wading pool closures would hurt residents of low-income neighbourhoods the most.
"This is one of the few kinds of recreational spaces that some kids will have access to. We shouldn’t be closing them and we should be really looking at ways to cut the police budget (and shift that funding), instead of pitting infrastructure projects against each other," said Curnow, a member of the citizen’s group Budget For All.
However, the report recommends the city consider new investments at closed wading pool sites, such as playground upgrades.
No specific locations for new spray pads or wading pool closures have been recommended.
Meanwhile, another city report offers details on how the city could spend $50 million of previously announced provincial funding on a recreation and library strategy over the next three years.
It proposes to devote $15 million to renew indoor pools, $10 million to improve recreation centres, $8 million to twin arenas and $6 million to renovate libraries, which would require 2021 municipal budget consideration and provincial approval.
Additional cash would be spent on maintenance, outdoor pools and community centres, while $7 million has not yet been allocated.
Council previously set aside another $2 million from that fund for an indoor recreation space with public washrooms, which is slated for the proposed redevelopment of Portage Place.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.