NAIT pool closure leaves aquatic groups scrambling

Click to play video 'NAIT pool closure leaves community groups scrambling for new home' NAIT pool closure leaves community groups scrambling for new home
WATCH ABOVE: On July 24, NAIT quietly announced on its website that it was closing its pool. While the school cited financial restraints and lack of use by staff and students, there are a lot of groups that are now scrambling to find a new home. Quinn Phillips reports.

When NAIT decided to permanently shut down its pool, it sent a number of aquatic groups scrambling for a place to train.

“We had several groups that swam out of this pool and we booked a total of about 20 hours a week here,” said Olympian Swim Club (OSC) president Jared Buhler.

“We have a swimming team and a water polo team,” said Corey Conroy, co-president of Making Waves Aquatics.

“Both of those teams travel internationally to masters meets and tournaments… this was our only training and preparation facility.”

READ MORE: NAIT closes pool permanently, says it has ‘little connection’ to academic programs 

For water polo, it has specific requirements for the size and depth of the pool, which are hard to come by in the city.

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“There’s already enough of a constraint on the city with finding those kinds of pools for the other water polo clubs that exist,” said Conroy.

“It will be a challenge.”

Those two clubs are a part of a recently formed group called Friends of NAIT pool; upwards of 20 aquatic group and sport leaders have joined in hopes of rallying to get the pool reopened. It includes local swim clubs, water polo teams, scuba clubs and Special Olympics. Members are reaching out to officials at NAIT, as well as to local and provincial politicians.

“My biggest concern is the lack of process and complete lack of consultation in going about this,” said Buehler.

In a statement, NAIT’s vice-president academics and provost Sue Fitzsimmons acknowledged that user groups were considered but not consulted.

The closure of the pool comes after a 2019 report citing necessary upgrades to the pool that NAIT says would cost in the millions of dollars.

NAIT also says that students and staff rarely use the facility.

“It’s a decision that is necessary as we transform operations for our long-term financial sustainability and prioritize spending on services and supports that are most critical to student success,” said Fitzsimmons.

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“I really don’t see an avenue here in the next month or two to change NAIT’s decision,” said Buhler. “I’m hopeful that maybe in the next six months as things settle down with COVID(-19) — or hopefully do — that maybe there’ll be an avenue to have further discussion.”