Calgary outdoor swimming pools look to extend season after COVID-19 closures

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Calgary outdoor swimming pools look to extend season after COVID-19 closures
WATCH: Only five of Calgary’s city-run pools are currently open, along with two outdoor pools. That has meant the cancellation of some swim programs over the summer. But as Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, some unique plans are being floated to get people back in the water – Aug 24, 2020

It’s been a disappointing summer in Calgary for those who enjoy swimming and for swim clubs that rely on city run pools.

The Cascade Swim Club normally operates out of four swimming pools but because of COVID-19 closures they have been restricted to the Repsol Sport Centre since July.
That meant around half of their 1000 swimmers have been left high and dry.

“There are only so many places you can go so the city being challenged with a number of facilities they a) have, and b) are going to be able to open for the competitive swimming community, it is going to be a real challenge,” said club manager Jasen Pratt.

He said while competitive swimmers were able to continue with their program at Repsol Sport Centre, a program for novice swimmers and a camp had to be cancelled over the summer.

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Click to play video: 'Calgary outdoor pools fully booked as soon as morning online registration opens'
Calgary outdoor pools fully booked as soon as morning online registration opens

“Normally, we have the Brookfield YMCA, Canyon Meadows and Acadia so that’s an awful lot of water space for a program our size which puts more than 1,000 kids through its doors in a year. We desperately need those other facilities,” Pratt said.

Right now only five city run pools are open.

COVID-19 concerns — combined with staff layoffs — mean the city can’t commit to when the remaining nine might open.

“We are trying hard to do our best and the reality is we are living in a different world,” said Michelle Tait, superintendent of operations with Calgary Recreation.

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“We believe in the social benefit of operating facilities and the social benefit of all these groups whether it’s ice or water but we have to do things to ensure everybody’s safety and we can’t open everything for everyone. There is risk associated with that,” Tait said.

There are only two outdoor swimming pools open and they normally close on Labour Day, but the Calgary Outdoor Swimming Pools Association is looking at extending the season to create space for swim clubs, even exploring the possibility of domes.

“I said ‘if we can stay open and the weather is good let’s stay open,'” said Calgary Outdoor Pools Association executive director Jenny Jensen. “Let’s give people what they want because there are only the two pools and it is limited and they are selling out very quickly,”

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“We would love to be in the outdoor pools,” said Pratt.  He said the domes on outdoor pools are common in the U.S. and cheaper than building a new pool.

“You just pop up one of those air domes just like you would with golf or tennis and then you could run it all year long and I mean why not? Thousands of people could take advantage of that opportunity,” Pratt said.

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Currently you can book several days in advance to swim at the city pools.

Users say the online registration has been good but the morning and evening slots fill up fast.

“I have just finished my swim and I have already booked my swim for next week. Even if you do it a couple days ahead of time, there are still slots,” said Mary Holland who has been swimming three days a week since the Canyon Meadows Pool reopened in July.

On the upside, Cascade Swim club has had no positive cases of COVID-19 since the hundreds of young swimmers got back together in cohorts in July and club swimmers will be back in the Canyon Meadows pool next month.

Pratt said it’s been hard not being able to tell families exactly what will be happening this fall.

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“We have had to push them off until we can get some sort of confirmation that we will be able to run the programs. I know that’s not easy for families. I think we are going to have some positive messages for our families in the next week,” Pratt said.


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