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Plans aim to re-establish aquatic centre as cornerstone in Saint John

Click to play video: 'Canada Games Aquatic Centre has new financial plan, seeks fresh start' Canada Games Aquatic Centre has new financial plan, seeks fresh start
It’s been nearly 40 years since the Canada Games Aquatic Centre became a key piece in Saint John. As Robert Lothian reports, after recent financial troubles, there’s hope a new plan can mark a fresh start. – Jun 16, 2022

When it was built in the 1980s, the Canada Games Aquatic Centre in Saint John set out to be a cornerstone in the community.

However, in recent years financial hardships have cast a shadow over the facility. The COVID-19 pandemic slashed gym memberships and swim lessons, and the centre was forced to pay back money from a federal subsidy program after it was deemed ineligible.

“We absolutely experienced challenges during the pandemic and the restrictions that were involved with that,” said Amy McLennan, general manager of the Canada Games Aquatic Centre.

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But McLennan believes the worst has passed, and their focus can now transition to a new revitalization plan for the centre.

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“We’re definitely seeing everything on an upward trajectory. I think the community as a whole is seeing that same trend, and people are putting an importance on wellness like never before,” McLennan said.

Public input is being sought until July 3 through online and paper surveys to shape the future of the centre.

Read more: N.B. to host Canada Summer Games in 2029, about 4,000 athletes expected

“We’re really looking to identify some new partnerships, services, other revenue opportunities that can, essentially, bring more revenue into the building and just allow us to ensure we’re able to service our community for years to come.”

Plans to improve and revitalize the centre are a collaboration between the Saint John Aquatic Centre Commission and the City of Saint John.

Brent Harris, a councillor at large in Saint John, said the centre possesses all the equipment he needs, whether he’s up for a swim or a workout.

Click to play video: '1985 Canada Games mascot helps raise money for N.B. recreation facility' 1985 Canada Games mascot helps raise money for N.B. recreation facility
1985 Canada Games mascot helps raise money for N.B. recreation facility – May 9, 2022

However, its his belief that the aquatic centre has been starved of financial resources. Harris is among the councillors in Saint John who has lobbied for comprehensive tax reform.

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“I mean, go to any other city, and you won’t be having this conversation. Why are we having this conversation? It’s because we don’t have comprehensive taxation, we don’t have fair industrial tax collection, we don’t have good regional cost-sharing,” Harris said.

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Additional revenue generated through tax reform, said Harris, would pave the way for resources such as the aquatic centre to receive sizable upgrades.

When asked about calls to close or sell the aquatic centre, Harris called the remarks a “starvation and scarcity model.”

He added that the public input for the survey will be a crucial tool to shape a facility envied by other municipalities.

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