Happyland Pool in Winnipeg may not make it to summer; community disappointed

A pool in St. Boniface may not to see the light of summer after cuts in the City of Winnipeg’s multi-year budget announced earlier this year.

Happyland Pool is set to close after the city’s Standing Policy Committee for Community Services voted not to pass along a motion to executive council recommending the city accept a gift of $85,000.

The money was raised by several organizations and individuals called the “Friends of Happyland Pool,” and was pulled together in less than two months, after Winnipeg’s budget said it would be closing the pool down alongside two others.

It was hoped the money would be used to keep the pool open this season, said Tom Scott, a Friend of Happyland Pool.

Story continues below advertisement

“We’ve heard a lot from the city administration. Just the other day, one of (them) said that Happyland Pool has at least five years left on it. So our long-term goal is to try to work out a plan with the city where we can offset, if not all the costs, the majority,” he said.

However, at the committee meeting on Wednesday, administration said the cost of opening the pool for one year would be $190,000: $100,000 of capital investments, $62,000 in operating costs and $28,000 in staffing fees.

Administration added that the staffing process for city pools had already begun.

Financial news and insights delivered to your email every Saturday.

During the meeting, chairperson of the committee, Coun. Evan Duncan also vocalized concerns over the legal process required to obtain the $85,000 from the Friends of Happyland. Administration noted that it would take quite some time, and if not actioned immediately, would not be feasible before July 1, meaning the pool would not be open until then.

As such, the motion was rejected three to one, with Transcons Coun. Russ Wyatt voting in favour of the motion.

“It’s really unfair to have a situation where three or four councillors decide on what’s going to happen. We felt that this should at least go to council and let the whole council decide what’s going to happen,” Scott said.

Click to play video: 'City of Winnipeg approves multi-year budget for 2024-2027'

City of Winnipeg approves multi-year budget for 2024-2027

He added that, based on interactions of the Riel Community Committee and other councillors, he had hope the motion would go through.

Story continues below advertisement

“The majority of councillors that have heard our plans and our proposal felt that it was worth bringing it forward. So, we’re a little disappointed,” he said.

“(It was) a lot of hard work. I really have to commend some of these people that are involved who are working, have family issues and everything else. But they are still committed to this cause because it’s a just cause.”

He himself has memories with his grandchildren there.

“It’s viable to teach children how to swim, to give education of water sports to people. Lifesaving is a very important thing, and just the benefits of water during the hot summer.”

The group is still willing to collaborate with the city, he said, but is seeking two-way dialogue.

“It’s mostly just been one-way from us to the city,” Scott said.

Click to play video: 'Swimming lessons in high demand'

Swimming lessons in high demand

Adding to the pain is seeing Windsor Park Outdoor Pool have its life extended by the city, he said.

Story continues below advertisement

“I’m not saying they don’t deserve their pool. Every community in the city should have a pool. But when they said they were going to spend money to open their pool, we though that… the city would do the same to us, treat us equally. It was surprising,” he said.

In an emailed statement, councillor for St. Boniface, Matt Allard, said: “Windsor Park has much higher attendance relative to Happyland. According to a media report, Windsor Park averages about 9,000 visitors a year while Happyland averages about 4,000.”

Another reason for keeping the pool open was that it is a closer walk to Bonivital Pool, by 18 minutes.

More on Money

Scott said these reasons are not altogether shocking, but it’s frustrating to have a pool taken away from St. Boniface.

“We are really disappointed when we hear people, especially councillors, say that St. Boniface has three pools. That’s true, there’s no denying that. But the three pools do not equal the capacity of the other pools,” he said.

“It doesn’t make sense to take a pool away from us because another ward doesn’t have any pools. That’s not equaling things out. Build another pool,” he said.

Global News reached out to Coun. Evan Duncan, chairperson of the committee that rejected the motion, but he did not get back to Global News before the time of publishing.

Story continues below advertisement

Allard said Winnipeg’s budget includes $50,000 for a consultation regarding the future of pools in the community.

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.