The City of Calgary is closing the Beltline Community Hub after a city study questioned the building’s long-term viability.
After 70 years, the building formerly known as the Beltline Aquatic and Fitness Centre will shut its doors in mid-October, the city said.
According to a briefing report to the city’s community development committee on Tuesday, a city study showed “delivering integrated social and recreational programming” out of the city-owned building is “not viable.”
The report cited a lack of staff to operate programming at the building as a factor in the quick closure.
“I’m really sad about it, for many reasons,” Ward 8 councillor Courtney Walcott told Global News.
“These aging facilities, there just isn’t enough resources right now to hold them up in the way that I think we want to, and the way that I know many people will actually cherish them.”
Budget cuts resulted in the closure of the pool at the Beltline facility and the Inglewood pool in January 2020, but city council allocated one-time funding of $400,000 to allow for community use while the city worked to repurpose the facility.
Administration is reviewing social and recreational programs offered at the Beltline Community Hub to prioritize and determine if they can be transitioned to other locations, the report said.
The report said the Calgary AfterSchool program will be relocated to other schools.
However, one program offered by the Alberta Alliance Who Educates and Advocates Responsibly (AAWEAR) is still looking for an alternative.
The group’s Tuesday Morning Refresh Program operated weekly at the Beltline facility since April. It offered low-barrier access to a hot shower, food, peer support, harm reduction, medical testing and community resource navigation for the city’s vulnerable population.
“There was hope that we’d be in here until at least December, but we were told that as of September, we would no longer be able to use this space,” AAWEAR provincial communications manager Marie Ferraro told Global News.
The incoming closure forced the group to relocate its services outside the Community Wise building next door, but Ferraro said it’s the access to the showers that drew in vulnerable Calgarians to their services.
According to Ferraro, AAWEAR is looking for support from the City of Calgary to find a new space after originally partnering with the city to operate inside the Beltline facility.
“It’s needed,” she said. “The program keeps growing — we get more attendees. We’ve had no incidents, we’ve had no poisonings — it’s a very successful program.
“If they’re not going to let us use this space, help us find another space.”
According to Walcott, the closure will result in an amenity gap in the area which will eventually be filled following a $45-million investment from the City of Calgary to the MNP Community and Sport Centre in Lindsay Park, which is south of the Beltline facility.
“We’re just looking to make sure that we don’t lose programming, even if we don’t have program staff for this particular facility,” he said.
Officials at the MNP Community and Sport Centre said the money will be used to broaden its services, expand its aquatic facilities and to create universal locker-rooms among other internal improvements.
“Right now, we have some capacity, but it really depends on the day in the program and the time of the day,” MNP Community and Sport Centre CEO Jeff Booke told Global News. “But there’s certainly capacity in the facility to add more programming.
“By adding capacity to the centre, not only through space, but by program and design, we’ll be able to meet the needs of more people.”
The city report said there isn’t any interest in the facility in its current state, which requires “significant upgrades” to repurpose the pool basin, as well as an update to its mechanical and electrical systems.
The cost estimate to convert the facility for social and recreational programs would require up to $35 million in capital funding, and annual operating funding of upwards of $1 million, the report said.
The facility and the land will remain in the city’s building inventory while administration determines its future.
“I think the city staff really put in an admirable effort to turn it into sort of a community hub that was accessible to more vulnerable populations,” said Beltline Neighbourhoods Association president Peter Oliver.
“The numbers just weren’t there to get something that was a sustainable model for the community that the city could really justify keeping that building open long term.”