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photo by Gord Bowes

photo by Gord Bowes

Janine Gaunt, manager of the new Westmount recreation centre, says public tours of the facility will be held Jan. 15 and 19.

Westmount rec centre nearly ready

Programs start Jan. 22

By Gord Bowes, News staff

Work on the oft-delayed Westmount Recreation Centre is nearly complete.

The $21-million, 50,000-square-foot facility will open its doors this month.

The rec centre was one of several projects announced for the city as part of a federal infrastructure stimulus project announced in early 2009 and was to be completed by March 2011. The $21-million cost was to be evenly divided by the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

Because the city could not complete the centre on time, it did not receive full funding from the upper levels — in the federal government’s case, it was $3.1 million less than promised.

“This facility never would have been initiated at that time without their assistance,” acknowledged Coun. Terry Whitehead (Ward 8, west Mountain).

But it was also clear from the outset that construction wasn’t likely to be completed on schedule, he said.

When the infrastructure projects were announced during the recession of 2009, the project was on the city’s wish list — albeit near the bottom — because the old Westmount rec centre was closed, though the city had only just started on a feasibility study.

“It wasn’t a surprise the project wouldn’t meet the timelines,” said Whitehead.

The project was also delayed while the city secured a site and because of a lack of specialized contractors needed for the pool, he said. As construction neared completion, there was again a delay because of a leak in the concrete pool and because of scratched glass that needed to be replaced before the city would accept the building from the contractor.

The centre will be the flagship of all the city’s recreation facilities, said Whitehead. It is about three times the size of the original Westmount centre, which was built in 1965 and closed in 2008 due to structural concerns.

“I’m very optimistic there’s very little we missed in this design,” he said.

The new centre, located at 35 Lynbrook Dr., features a 25-metre, eight-lane pool, a warm pool with slide, a youth centre, a seniors activity room, a dance/fitness studio, a gymnasium, a community meeting space and three multi-purpose rooms, said facility manager Janine Gaunt.

There’s also a grand lobby, natural lighting wherever possible and the building offers wifi Internet access.

Workers are still installing the final touches, such as outfitting the building with way-finding signs, and awaiting final inspections, said Gaunt.

The public is invited to tour the new Westmount rec centre on Jan. 15 from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m., and again Jan. 19 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Program guides will be available and memberships can be purchased at that time. Programming starts Jan. 22.

Gaunt worked at the original Westmount recreation centre back in the 1990s and said the difference is “night and day” between the new facility and the old one, which was basically just a pool and two activity rooms.

“It makes for so many more opportunities than we had before,” she said.

The main, 25-metre pool is the only municipally-run eight-lane pool in the city, said Gaunt. It can fit 80 people in the shallow end for water fit classes and can be cordoned off so some people can swim laps while another group uses the rest of the pool for various classes.

The smaller leisure pool, with temperature set at 94F, features a hydrotherapy area for seniors and people with mobility problems and a slide for the kids. It has gently sloping ramps to allow easy access and can be divided into several unique areas to allow for multiple programs to run concurrently — a mom can take a water fit class while her toddler learns to swim and a grandparent enjoys the hydrotherapy area, said Gaunt.

“We’re going to try different programming concepts.”

On Wednesdays, there will be a free family swim as part of the city’s affordable access strategy, she said.

The youth room is equipped with pool, foosball and air hockey tables, lounge seating and computers for games or Internet access. There is a partnership with the high school next door so students can use the facility during their lunch hour.

Friday nights at the Westmount rec centre there will be a youth focus, with programs including pool games and youth centre activities for kids age nine and up from 5-9 p.m.

Also on Fridays, parents can drop their 5- to 8-year-olds off between 5-8 p.m. for gym and craft activities.

“We kick the grownups out on Friday night,” said Gaunt.

Programming on Wednesdays and Fridays will focus on the 55-plus crowd, with line dancing, chair aerobics, pickleball, badminton and other programs available. Those activities are expected to reduce some of the strain on the Sackville seniors centre.

The gymnasium features four badminton, two volleyball and one main basketball courts and can be separated into two useable areas. There is bleacher seating for about 120 and it will be available to the public all day.

The centre features three change rooms — male, female and universal — and all are barrier-free.

“They’re very expansive, which is nice,” said Gaunt.

Of the three multipurpose rooms on the second floor, the largest holds 120 people and can be divided into two rooms. There’s also a kitchen and it can be rented for birthday parties, said Gaunt.

One of the rooms, featuring brightly coloured tables and chairs with telescopic legs, is aimed at younger children for arts and creative programs. The blinds in that room can be pulled down, allowing the space to be converted into a Snoezelen room.

After-school programs will also be offered from 3-6 p.m., said Gaunt.

The centre will be closed Mondays until March Break to allow for any repairs or fine-tuning needed at the new building.

“We want people to enjoy the facility,” she said. “It’s been a long wait for the community. We’re ready, we want people to come and enjoy it.”

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