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Laurentian earmarks $300K for Jeno Tihanyi pool

Board chair says it’s a ‘very cautious investment’ as the university explores what it will take to repair the pool and get it up and running
The Jeno Tihanyi Olympic Gold Pool at Laurentian University.

Laurentian University has earmarked a little more than $300,000 out of its maintenance budget for the upcoming fiscal year to investigate and repair the leak at the Jeno Tihanyi Olympic Gold Pool.

The funds were approved by the university’s board of governors at their Feb. 17 meeting.

Late last month, Laurentian provided an update on its long-shuttered pool, saying it was investigating what it would take to reopen the facility.

This comes just months after Laurentian University finally exited creditor protection under the Companies Creditors Arrangement Act (or CCAA) late last year, after 22 months.

The Jeno Tihanyi pool, which was built in 1972, was shut down in the spring of 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and never reopened.

A written report presented to Laurentian’s board of governors explains what has happened to the pool since that time (you can view that report starting on page 134 of the Feb. 17 board package).

What happened to Laurentian’s pool?

The report said in the fall of 2020, the engineering consulting firm of J.L Richards was engaged to assess the structural integrity of the pool. 

The J.L. Richards report, received in mid-February 2022, indicated that concrete exterior wall structural repair costs of an estimated $130,000 would be required to prevent further deterioration of the pool structure.

Around the same time, the pool started to leak and emptied completely within a couple of months. 

Canadian Leak Detection was hired in May 2022 to review the integrity of the mechanical piping to and from the pool. 

In addition to the repair costs identified by J.L. Richards and Canadian Leak Detection, there are outstanding deferred maintenance projects that need to be addressed prior to reopening. 

One of these projects includes the overhead lights that have created a safety hazard and need to be replaced at an estimated cost of $150,000.

Facility Services has retained Aquatic Associates as a consultant to lead the investigative process and repairs of the pool. They are an aquatic specialist company which provides consulting services to commercial aquatic facility operators and programmers. 

As of today, the source of the leak or leaks remains unknown, said the report to Laurentian’s board. 

To properly address the operating issues, a comprehensive review is required. Aquatic Associates confirmed that the investigative process and repairs could take from six months to one year. 

The report said that while Laurentian was subject to CCAA expenditure control, there was limited funding available to perform what it termed “non-critical repairs” and the decision to re-open the pool was postponed. 

“Now that Laurentian has successfully exited the CCAA, a decision is required on completing the necessary repair work to safely reopen the pool in the short term,” Michel Piché, Laurentian’s interim vice-president, finance and administration, told LU’s board.

A ‘very cautious investment’ 

Laurentian board chair Jeff Bangs said the university is basically making a “very cautious investment” to determine what it will take to repair the pool.

He said the range in potential costs is “vast,” as some say the cracks could be sealed with new technology for tens of thousands of dollars, but there’s also the possibility the pool would have to be relined, “which is hugely expensive” for an Olympic-sized pool.

“The short answer is we don't know,” Bangs said. “We're all hopeful that the costs are low and that the technology and techniques are capable of saving the pool and allowing us to operate in the future.”

Piché explained that the pool is used primarily by community groups such as the Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club and the Sudbury Synchro Club.

The university also used to have a varsity swim program, but that was cut during the CCAA restructuring in 2021.

Piché said the revenues generated in past years “did not really cover the full operating costs, resulting in the university having to subsidize operations using other incomes.”

He said if it’s determined the pool can be reopened in the short term, it would be with the understanding that “external support will be required to insure its long-term financial sustainability, including charging market prices for its use so that the university does not have to subsidize its use.”

Bangs said he’s been approached by many community stakeholders, including swim clubs, the municipal government and school boards, expressing the importance of Laurentian’s athletic facilities and greenspace, and in particular the pool.

“It’s well known that there’s a great past, and there could possibly be a great future as well,” he said. “And the one thing I'll note is I'm impressed by the number of organizations who are ready to partner with us in the future”

A couple of Laurentian board members spoke fondly about visiting Laurentian’s pool in their youth, and emphasized its value as a recruiting tool to future students, as the sports facilities are often their first point of contact with LU’s campus.

Dan Scott said he grew up in Barrie, and visited Laurentian’s pool during a class trip to Sudbury when he was in Grade 8.

“The most memorable part for me was leaping off of the top tower into the pool, and waking up the next morning to find bruises all along my arms from having slapped the top of the water,” he said. “But that was memorable, and I did end up coming back to Laurentian to do my undergrad.”

Swim coach grateful pool ‘getting the attention it deserves’

In light of the funds being earmarked for Laurentian’s pool, reached out to Dean Henze, head coach of the Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club.

He said he has no idea if the funds will be enough to get LU’s pool up and running, but he’s grateful the pool is “getting the attention it deserves.” 

“I am hopeful that the cost of getting the pool back online is within this budget figure, but time will tell,” Henze said, in an email.

He said the cost of running the pool cannot realistically be thrust upon the user groups alone. “The university must come up with a business plan to try and run revenue generating programs as well as the rental fees from community groups,” Henze said.

Laurentian spending $8.4M on maintenance overall

While the most high-profile item on the list, the money being spent on the LU pool in the next fiscal year only makes up a small portion of $8.4 million in deferred maintenance projects for Laurentian’s campus also approved by the board at the meeting.

Particularly big-ticket items budgeted for during 2023-24 include the replacement of the roof on the Alphonse Raymond building at $1.9 million, and asbestos removal, lighting and heating in the university’s Arts Building at $850,000.

Of these projects, $2.6 million comes from provincial funding through the Facilities Renewal Program, and $5.8 million from Laurentian’s operating fund.

Since 2020, Laurentian completed maintenance projects based solely on provincial dollars, which has resulted in a maintenance backlog. The university spent $1.6 million on maintenance in 2021-22, $788,510 in 2021-22 and $2.3 million in 2022-23.

“As part of our CCAA exit last November, this plan calls for deferred maintenance spending averaging around $7.5 or $7.6 million per year for the next five years,” said Piché.

Heidi Ulrichsen is’s associate content editor. She also covers education and the arts scene.


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