Parts of Vancouver Aquatic Centre closed after concrete chunk falls from ceiling

Click to play video: 'Falling concrete closes section of popular Vancouver pool'
Falling concrete closes section of popular Vancouver pool
A section of the aging Vancouver Aquatic Centre was closed to the public temporarily after a chunk of concrete fell from the ceiling. Alissa Thibault has more on the future of the popular West End pool – Feb 16, 2024

Portions of the Vancouver Aquatic Centre were closed to the public on Friday, after a chunk of concrete roughly the size of a deck of playing cards fell from the ceiling.

In a statement, the city said the incident happened as a result of work being done to the exterior of the building, which dislodged the concrete along with several styrofoam acoustic panels.

The city said repairs to the ceiling would be completed over the weekend.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver Aquatic Centre closed after structure damaged'
Vancouver Aquatic Centre closed after structure damaged

“It’s a shame … it’s the only pool in town that can really accommodate a bunch of aquatic sports, and it’s crumbling,” Bob Nichols, a competitive water polo player, told Global News outside the facility.

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“Even now part of the pool is blocked off, I’m not sure if the divers can dive in the deep end, swimmers can’t swim the whole 50 metres, they’re cut off and half of the pool is sort of inoperable, and it’s just going to squish everybody else into some of the other pools in the city.”

According to the City of Vancouver, the Tot pool was closed for a week from Feb. 8 to the 15, but has since re-opened.

The pool’s east deck is currently closed, meaning swimmers are limited to the 25 metres stretch, instead of the full 50 metres. The deck is slated to re-open within the next week.

It’s not the first worrying sign of decay to turn up at the 50-year-old pool.

In 2022, a large slab of concrete fell off the front of the building raising major safety concerns. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Talk of renewing the aging facility has been ongoing for more than a decade, and in 2019 the city published an aquatic strategy that suggested replacing it with a new, large-scale pool with outdoor components.

That document stated the pool had neared the end of its functional lifespan and didn’t meet current seismic requirements.

The incident has, not surprisingly, reignited the contentious political battle being waged over the future of Vancouver’s elected park board.

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In December, Mayor Ken Sim cited the 2022 incident as an example of problems with the board he was seeking to fix by eliminating it and folding parks administration under city council oversight.

On Friday, Park Board Chair Brennan Bastyovanszky fired back, saying that while the park board operates the pool, its capital budget and maintenance are already under city control through the Real Estate, Environment and Facilities Management (REFM) department.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver’s Kitsilano Pool leaking 30,000 litres of water every hour'
Vancouver’s Kitsilano Pool leaking 30,000 litres of water every hour

“The city’s role is about the capital, they’ve been slow on that, they have been slow on actually providing the capital maintenance, which is why the building is falling apart,” he said.

“It created a maintenance deficit within the park board assets like the train, which was also looked after by RDFM. So when they talk about centralization and cost savings, it has resulted in a reduction of service to the people of Vancouver.”

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In the 2022 election, Vancouver voters authorized $140 million in funding towards renewing the pool under the 2023-2026 city capital plan.

Nichols, meanwhile, said swimmers don’t care who is in charge, they just want working aquatic facilities in the city.

“Politics are politics and whether it’s the park board or council doesn’t really matter, just build us more pools,” he said.

In its statement, the city said planning and engagement for that renewal were currently underway and set to conclude by 2026.

“The VAC renewal project team will use feedback from previous engagement, along with the current work of the West End Community Hub and the West End Waterfront Masterplan, to guide next steps,” the city said.

“Construction is anticipated to begin in 2026.”

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