City to test waters on outdoor pool, Natatorium redevelopment

Justin
Justin Crann
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RFP green-lit by executive committee

Sentiment was lukewarm on the future of the Natatorium and Phyllis Dewar Outdoor Pool at the executive committee table, so they're going to test the community's waters.

The committee considered a motion to allow a request for proposals (RFP) to be put out on the property.

Coun. Brian Swanson explicitly rejected the notion of the site — and particularly, the outdoor pool — being redeveloped.

"The idea that we'll allow someone to take over the Nat and demolish the outdoor pool and then build something there, in Crescent Park, is just out of the question for me," Swanson told the rest of the committee. "To allow someone to take that property over and replace it with something else is just not an option."

Swanson moved that the RFP should exclude the outdoor pool and its footprint.

"I'm not really interested in seeing what someone would do with the site of the outdoor pool," he said. "It just isn't in the cards for me."

But Matt Noble, Moose Jaw's city manager, said the RFP would have to be an all-or-nothing pitch because "the hardware and mechanical for the outdoor pool is inextricably combined with the natatorium (structure)."

He added that the RFP would just be "a request for people with ideas and concepts … that might be palatable to the community," and that the city would "never know what it is they can say no to" without one.

Coun. Don Mitchell agreed with Noble's sentiment.

"There's all kinds of things I wouldn't like to see in Crescent Park … (but) I'd like to be able to see what's out there and make a judgment," he said. "I know there's public interest in the property."

Coun. Heather Eby supported the idea that the city should see what sort of interest there is in redeveloping the property, but wasn't optimistic about the prospects.

"I don't think anybody is going to want to do anything with the Natatorium," she said. "I just don't have much hope of anything coming back."

Several councillors referred to the RFP and the potential for redevelopment as a "contentious issue," but Coun. Candis Kirkpatrick disagreed with that position.

"I, personally, don't think it is. I think this is an extremely positive move," she told the committee. "We're two years away from 20 years that the city has sat back (since the Natatorium closed). … Trying to get someone to develop that property is not contentious at all. That's being proactive."

Swanson remained adamantly opposed to the RFP.

"I stopped believing the moon was made out of cream cheese a long time ago," he told the committee. "We're now throwing ourselves on the mercy and the kindness of strangers."

Swanson took his argument further, contending that the reason the RFP was being put forward is because the city simply doesn't want to invest in the required repairs to keep the Natatorium and outdoor pool open.

"We have the money to upgrade the software and lighting at the multiplex, but the Natatorium is consistently turned down for anything," he said. "And now, we're going to open it up for people to knock it all down and build something in Crescent Park. That's just not an option for me … and that's why this whole process is really just a giant waste of time."

Eby agreed that the committee is dragging its heels, but didn't agree with Swanson's perception of the cause for their behaviour.

She supported the RFP.

"At least if we put this out there and it's a dead issue, we know it's a dead issue and then I can say, 'I told you so,'" explained Eby. "I don't have much hope for anything coming back, but it is possible."

Ultimately, the executive committee green-lit city administration to put out an RFP on the site by a vote of five to two. Councillors Swanson and Dawn Luhning were opposed.

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Geographic location: Crescent Park, Moose Jaw

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  • Layne Elder
    July 09, 2014 - 01:34

    Growing up in Moose Jaw was awesome back in the 60's. The Nat was great for indoor swimming in the winter and the nice big Olympic size pool in the summertime. I can't imagine that the present City Council has their heads stuck in a paper bag and can't see the community benefit the Nat has given over the years. Why was it closed 20 years ago?

    • Paul Dowling
      July 09, 2014 - 20:54

      When your building doesn't get routine maintenance it costs so much more to sustain it. Did someone think leaving a building alone for 20 years in such a beautiful park would be a healing affect? It needs some money injected for updates and keep us the treasured gem we all appreciate. Every city has a recreation department, we just failed to look after it. Please put the city hall up for sale first, maybe privatizing it would create some efficiency.