Last year, we announced that the Lady Beaverbrook Gym, which houses the Sir Max Aitken Pool, would be decommissioned in September, 2018. As many of you know, the City of Fredericton recently committed to taking a leadership role in finding a solution to the city’s aquatic needs. Over the past few months, we’ve been working with the City in the hopes of having a new pool built on UNB’s Fredericton campus.
I’m disappointed to share that we have not been able to reach an agreement with the City and, therefore, intend to move forward with the building’s decommissioning later this year in accordance with our funding agreement for the new kinesiology building with the federal and provincial governments. Of course, if an opportunity arises that meets our objectives and makes financial sense, we would consider filing for an amendment to that agreement and keeping the Sir Max Aitken Pool open while a new pool is being built.
For nearly a century, thanks to the generosity of our donors, UNB has provided an aquatics facility for the greater Fredericton community – first the Lady Beaverbrook Residence Pool and, more recently, the Sir Max Aitken Pool. Our usage statistics show that more than 80 per cent of current pool users are Fredericton community members, and despite that, we retain a strong desire to keep a pool on our Fredericton campus, but we can only do so through a partnership.
We believe that both UNB and the City of Fredericton would benefit from having a new pool located on campus. We are a small city and university and joining together to share costs on an equitable basis makes sense to us. Housing a new facility on our campus would also have provided a grant in lieu of property tax to the City from the Province of New Brunswick, which we believe could have helped fund ongoing operating costs for the facility.
We brought this issue to the City’s attention on several occasions over the past decade, as the Lady Beaverbrook Gym was deteriorating and the Sir Max Aitken Pool had passed the end of its useful life.
Our Board of Governors approved a campus master plan in 2004 that envisioned a healthy living village made up of three components – the final part of that vision was a new aquatic centre. We saw this as a way to enhance delivery of our academic mission and to contribute to the community.
As a resolution to the aquatic facility situation, we offered a shared solution that would have seen the Sir Max Aitken Pool remain open until a new one was built on campus. We offered to provide the land for a new facility, share the costs of construction and ongoing maintenance and operating costs. We suggested the creation of a group of City and university officials to work out the details of such a partnership. We know that clustering recreation and wellness facilities together makes them more successful and still believe that the land we offered for the aquatic centre is the optimal location.
We thought this offer was fair and hoped that it would be acceptable to the City, but they notified us late yesterday afternoon that they’ve decided to investigate other options with other partners.
We wish the City the best as they investigate other solutions to the City’s aquatic needs. We are committed to keeping our varsity swim team at UNB and continue to work to find another location for them to practise and compete after September, 2018.
Despite our desire to see a new pool built on our Fredericton campus, we will move ahead with the capital priorities that best align with and support our academic mission. This has always been, and will continue to be, at the core of our decisions.
Dr. George MacLean
Vice-President Academic (Fredericton)