Vancouver swim club says it’s facing 600% fee hike from city

A Vancouver swim club says new COVID-19 private rental rates make securing a public pool inaccessible to many swimmers. Getty Images

A Vancouver swim club is crying foul over what it says is a more than 600 per cent increase in the cost to rent a public pool in Vancouver, under the city’s return-to-swim plans.

The 250-person Canadian Dolphin Swim Club has operated out of the Vancouver Aquatic Centre for years, but has been forced to train at a private community centre over the summer due to the closure of public pools.

Vancouver reopened its pools this week, including to private rentals, but the Dolphins say rates for a swimmer training 12 hours a week could go from $45 per month to $310 per month.

According to information the group was given during its window to book rentals this week, it will be limited to three swimmers per lane, and the club will have to pick up the cost of three life guards and a pool maintenance person, Dolphins president Jeannie Lo told Global News, Saturday.

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“We were quire shocked by the dramatic increase. We did not expect it to be anywhere close to where it is presented now,” she said.

“It really makes our program inaccessible and competitive swim training inaccessible to our club and probably other clubs.”

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In a statement, the Vancouver Park Board acknowledged that costs had increased, because under the reopening plan private groups will not share the pool with public swim times.

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Prior to the pandemic, the cost of lifeguards and overhead at city pools have always been borne by private groups when they rent an entire pool, said the board.

“This practice will continue during COVID-19 and now that private clubs are not able to share the pool with public swimmers, they will assume the costs of the lifeguards during their bookings,” reads the statement.

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“With reduced capacities inside indoor facilities, and in order to provide as much access to the pools as possible, the Park Board is in a position where it needs to share additional costs with users in order to open the pools during the pandemic.”

The board said the lane rental fee itself will not increase, and said that clubs will not, in fact, be required to pay for the presence of a pool maintenance person.

The cost has also increased because Lifesaving Canada guidelines now require three lifeguards to be on deck, it added.

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Lo, who has two children in the swim club, said she doesn’t understand why rates in Vancouver are so high when other municipalities have found other ways to offset costs.

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Sporting organizations Swim BC and ViaSport have also both increased the maximum number of swimmers they say can safely use a lane, she added.

“Quite frankly, at these rates I just can’t afford to proceed with swim club,” she said.

The park board says it will be monitoring usage and safety protocols “and look to make changes once it is confirmed safe to do so.”

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