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Sudbury’s municipal pools range in condition from poor to fair

City releases report as the first step toward a rationalization and modernization review of its aquatic facilities
The RG Dow Pool in Copper Cliff is seen here in a file photo. (File)

The City of Greater Sudbury has drafted a report on the city’s aquatics facilities as the first step toward a rationalization and modernization review.

Their initial round of background research has been completed, as outlined in a series of reports tabled for the Feb. 21 city council meeting.

The city’s five municipal pools cost a combined $2 million per year to operate and were estimated to require $8.7 million in capital work within five years to maintain them in a good state of repair. The facilities were built between 1967-1982, and range in condition from poor to fair.

Pending city council approval of its $150,000 cost on Feb. 21, the next phase of the review will begin in March, and include facility condition assessments, public consultation and preliminary findings being sent to city council by November.

A second round of community engagement and research would fill out 2024, after which city council would be presented with recommendations and high-level cost estimates.

For now, the reports tabled for Feb. 21 highlight the current status and use of Greater Sudbury’s aquatics facilities, which include 17 splash pads, seven supervised beaches and five indoor pools.

The five pools include Gatchell Pool, Howard Armstrong Recreation Centre, Nickel District, Onaping Pool and R.G. Dow Pool. Combined, they netted 112,617 swimmers in 2022, which is down from their pre-pandemic peak of 194,388 in 2019.

The most popular pool was at the Howard Armstrong Recreation Centre, which saw 42,204 visits in 2022. The least-visited pool was in Onaping, and saw 5,189 swim visits. The Onaping pool is also the city’s smallest and oldest. 

Gatchell Pool was built in 1975, and includes a single tank measuring 25 metres long and 15 metres wide. The pool is co-located with the Jean Hanson Public School and is used several times per week by students.

The Howard Armstrong Recreation Centre was built in 1982, and includes a single tank measuring 25 metres long and 15 metres wide. The facility also includes a cardio and weight room, squash courts and indoor walking track.

The Nickel District pool facility was built in 1972, and includes a single tank measuring 25 metres by 10 metres. It’s co-located with St. Charles College secondary school.

The Onaping Pool was built in 1967 as an addition to the Onaping Community Centre. It includes a single tank measuring 12 metres by five metres, and lacks an accessibility ramp or chairlift. The community centre also includes change rooms, a gymnasium, library and other community spaces.

The R.G. Dow Pool was built in 1971 and includes a single tank measuring 25 metres by 12 metres. 

All five of the municipal pools are subsidized by the tax base, and cost the city more than $2 million last year in operational costs. The cost breakdown is Gatchell ($324,082), HARC ($887,946), Nickel District ($267,182), Onaping ($286,615) and RG Dow ($297,652). 

At the latest update following a 2018 building condition assessment, the five-year projected cost is $8.7 million. Gatchell is classified as being in poor condition, HARC is fair/poor, Nickel District is poor, Onaping is poor, and RG Dow is fair/poor. The cost estimates also include capital expenses anticipated for the entirety of the Onaping Community Centre and Howard Armstrong Recreation Centre buildings.

The city’s Parks, Open Spaces and Leisure Master Plan recommends one indoor aquatic centre per 25,000 residents. 

This includes non-municipal pools, such as the YMCA and the Jeno Tihanyi Olympic Gold Pool at Laurentian University (the LU pool has been shuttered since March 2020, but Laurentian is looking at what it will take to reopen the facility).

The aquatics review is on the agenda to be discussed during the Feb. 21 city council meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. The meeting can be viewed in-person at Tom Davies Square or live streamed by clicking here

Also on the horizon is the proposed therapeutic/leisure pool at the Lionel E. Lalonde Centre. Although its business case was approved in the 2021 budget, the city received $1 million in federal funding for the project and fundraising totaled $100,500, “significant project escalations” occurred in 2022 and the project has been put on hold. Additional funds beyond its initially estimated $5.69 million will be needed, and details are expected to be included in the aquatics facility review process.

In another potential upcoming project, Kalmo Beach is slated for potential review, with a business case to complete design and study work considered as part of the 2023 budget.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for


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Tyler Clarke

About the Author: Tyler Clarke

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for
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