Thames decision a puzzler

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:12 AM ET

Hey, the idea is to retain important facilities, not get rid of them.

In what will go down as one of those classic, head-scratching, goofy decisions this city used to be famous for, London is going to take its only 50-metre outdoor swimming pool, make it a 25-metre pool and then build a splash pad less than a mile from one already in existence.

Meanwhile, the lack of facilities suitable for competitive swimmers in this city continues to be an embarrassment. But when the Olympics introduce splash pad events such as watergun biathlon, we'll be among the world's best.

In March, the province gave London infrastructure money, $1.8 million of which was to upgrade Thames pool. The 80-year-old pool needs an overhaul. It's old, dirty and needs the facelift. But instead of simply modernizing it, the city is going to shrink it.

Let's put things in perspective. A city should never eliminate a competitive aspect of its facilities, especially this city, which has spent millions improving recreation facilities that for years had been ignored.

The Thames pool is already the site of several competitive meets, including the Paul Hauch invitational. Competitive swimmers use it to train. The indoor pool at the London Aquatic Centre is heavily used and already has issues between recreation and competitive swimmers.

"Obviously, we believe it should be left as an eight-lane 50-metre pool," said Paul Midgley, head coach at the London Aquatic Club. "We use the pool a lot because the Aquatic Centre is so heavily used and we can't get the configuration we need. Thames gives us the configuration we need.

"It's still heavily used and it has a lot of history to it. A lot of great swimmers came out of that pool."

Midgley said he wasn't consulted about the changes but "would think the city looked at all the options."

"What this shows is that even with the Aquatic Centre, the city is still underserviced when it comes to aquatic facilities," he said.

Taking a competitive pool out of commission for another splashpad isn't going to help that situation at all.

The province handed out these grants with a purpose.

"One of the things we have to do a better job of in Ontario is to provide the facilities to ensure people have the ability to get physically active to live healthier and longer lives," Ontario Health Promotion Minister Jim Watson said when he announced the grants.

The city has managed to shed it's image of being freeze-dried in the 60s. It's done a good job of planning that when they upgrade facilities they make certain they get the most bang for their buck.

Let's not regress.

This decision needs a second look.

Despite Lynn Loubert, London's aquatic manager's assertion that there was consultation about the changes, the changes came as news to many in the area.

While property prices won't be hurt by the addition of a splash pad, OId South already has the advantage of having the pool and property prices in that area don't need much of a boost.

Thames already being used by a lot of kids. Adding a splash pad will probably attract a few more young kids (at the expense of the downtown splashpad) but it won't make a significant difference to the pool's use.

It's depth allows swimmers of all ages to use it. It's size allows for plenty of room even when it's packed in the summer. Outside the pool there are diving wells, another feature that's heavily used.

Upgrade the pool, clean it up, add to the features, don't cut them out. If a kiddie component is needed find a way to add it without taking away 25-metres that's just as needed.

Now $1.7 million doesn't go as far as it used to but wouldn't it be a shame to not get full value for it? Who knows, if the city threw in a few more bucks at it, they could probably get its splash pad and keep their competitive-sized pool.

A much better choice than throwing the baby out with the bathwater.


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