The Lady Beaverbrook Gym and Sir Max Aitken Pool found inside the gym at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Fredericton is set to close near the end of next year.
In a release, UNB president Eddy Campbell said the gym and by extension, the pool, will be decommissioned in the fall of 2018.
“We have a strong desire to keep a pool on our Fredericton campus, but our academic mission needs to be our priority,” Campbell said.
The building, in addition to the pool, also is home to two gyms, squash courts, a climbing wall, faculty offices, computer and research labs, and classrooms.
UNB faculty of kinesiology chair Wayne Albert told Global News in an interview the pool is often busy with bookings, which means the closure will be challenging.
“That’s a challenge that we understand and we are disappointed about, but it’s a challenge that the community has,” Albert said. “We do have two other pools in the city that will require them to probably be oversubscribed in a number of components.”
FAST Swim Club parent volunteer Chris Ramsey said he’s disappointed to hear about the closure, but said he’s optimistic the university and the City of Fredericton will “do the right thing” and find a way to ensure Fredericton has an up-to-date aquatic centre.
“There’s a ton at stake here,” Ramsey said.
He takes his 14-year old daughter to train at 5:30 a.m. several times a week and said the program is a great opportunity for her to learn responsibility and dedication. He said there are currently 300 swimmers training with FAST. Ramsey said the program would continue to operate past 2018, but said it wouldn’t be on the same scale as it’s running now.
Ramsey said Campbell “planted a pretty firm stake in the ground” by saying stakeholders need to come together and work on a solution.
Campbell said they have advocated “at various times” for the construction of a new aquatics facility for Fredericton to the city, the Fredericton YMCA, and the provincial and federal governments, but they “have not been successful.”
Fredericton Mayor Mike O’Brien said in an email statement that all stakeholders, including the city, YCMA and all levels of government, need to “work together to fully understand the current and future demands for aquatics,” and determine what options there are to “meet the demand.”
“The city will be able to accommodate a good portion of the demand for lap swim capacity, swimming lessons and leisure swims currently met by the UNB pool, but recognize that existing community assets do not meet the technical requirements for all sports currently housed within the facility,” O’Brien said.
“Certainly, the city is disappointed to hear that the time has come to close the facility.”
The decommissioning of the gym was a commitment as part of UNB’s application for Strategic Infrastructure Funding, Campbell said, with the gym to be closed on completion of the new kinesiology building. The school received funding for the building a year ago, and is expected to open in September 2018.
UNB has, according to Campbell, provided an aquatics facility to both the university community and Fredericton as a whole for “nearly a century.” He said this began with the Lady Beaverbrook Residence Pool and then the Sir Max Aitken Pool in the gym.
The pool, Albert said, was about 40 years old but it is “past its lifespan.”
“There’s been countless competitions, I mean we’ve had some great swimmers out of this pool, and from a personal note, both my children learned how to swim in this pool,” he said.
With the pool set to close in fall 2018, Albert said they are looking into where the school’s varsity swim team will be able to practice after the gym is decommissioned.
“We are committed to keeping the team. That’s not changing going forward past 2018,” Albert said. “We’re looking for a home that will be just as good, if not better than where we are right now.”
He said they will be “celebrating and commemorating” the gym in several ways over the next year.
“I’m very sad. Very sad to see it go,” Albert said. “There’s a lot of history here, there’s a lot of nostalgia here. We’ve had a lot of swimming competitions here, and it’s a big piece of the community.”