Friday, 25 January 2013

A history of the Sherbrook Pool. Part 3: A new era.

Sherbrook Pool
A four part series on the history of the Sherbrook Pool
Part 1: Conception and Construction (1930 - 31)
Part 2: The glory years (1931 - 1970)
Part 3: A New Era (1971 - 1991)
Part 4: The last chapter ? (1992 - 2013)

© 2012 Christian Cassidy

Sherbrook Pool Schedule, December 1972

The Sherbrook Pool settled into its new role as a community pool.

Through the 1970s it offered a full slate of Red Cross swimming lessons and special classes for seniors and the disabled. It was also home to provincial lifeguard training programs. In the summer, special kid swims were held each afternoon and in the late 1970s came the early bird swim featuring the 100 Mile Club.

August 1, 1972, Winnipeg Free Press

On August 1, 1972 the pool was the scene of an important milestone: the 10-millionth visit to a city pool !

The Parks and Recreation department averaged out the number of daily swimmers dating back to the opening of the Cornish Baths in 1909 and determined that the 10-millionth visit would happen around 12:40 on that day. The Sherbrook Pool was chosen because it was the city's oldest.

Shortly before 1 pm Sandra Lloyd, an eight year-old who lived on Agnes Street and attended John M. King School, was the lead person in a group of friends coming for an afternoon swim. When she passed through the doors she was greeted with jubilation by the mayor and a number of city officials. When told that she was the 10-millionth visitor to a city pool she looked at the ground shyly and said " 'kay". She eventually warmed up to the attention and for her troubles received a certificate and an annual pass to the pool.

Also that day, Mrs. Dorothy Lloyd received a special award for her 41 years of teaching at the pool. She worked there from the day it opened in 1931 and created the Maple Leaf Swimming Club in 1933.

March 19, 1981, Winnipeg Free Press

In March 1981 the pool celebrated is 50th anniversary with an open house, lifeguard competition and free public swims. It was a happy time for the pool but its fortunes would soon change.

In September of that year the city was looking to make major cuts to the 1982 operating budget, initially requesting that departments come up with a 10% savings. The recreation department offered up the Sherbrook Pool and its $360,000 operating budget as part of its share. The cut was ruled out in short order, but it marked the first time that the pool was publicly on the chopping block.

October 8, 1985, Winnipeg Free Press

In August 1985 the pool had to be closed when water began leaking through the roof and ceiling. Repairs were estimated at $20,000 - $30,000 but the Recreation and Social Services Committee voted in October not to repair it, but to instead to generate a list of everything that needed repair and get an estimate for a complete fix. The estimate was in the range of $250,000.

Councillor Helen Promislow voted against the motion claiming that mixing long term repairs, including a sinking west wall, with the immediate repairs was an attempt to create "sticker shock" and an excuse to close the pool for good. She said "We're getting ready to close the pool and keep it closed and I don't  see anybody who is going to admit that," (October 8, 1985, Winnipeg Free Press, p. 11.)

Sherbrook Pool

The pool did have a number of things going against it. 

Compared to just 20 years earlier when it was the city's only indoor pool, there were now 12 others including inner city "neighbours" like Centennial Pool (1969), Sargent Park (1976), and suburban cousins like BoniVital (1974), Elmwood Kildonans (1975), Seven Oaks (1977). 

The 1970s era pools boasted spacious lobbies, exercise areas, saunas and separate children's ends. Councillor Don Mitchelson, chair of the recreation committee, referred to the Sherbrook Pool as "...a glorified wading pool" (November 28, 1985, Winnipeg Free Press, p. 3.)

It was also pointed out that the Sherbrook Pool only had 58,000 visits per year versus 70,000 at St. Vital's Margaret Grant Pool. In fact, from 1978 - 1988, attendance at all pools fell. it averaged 13% but the big losers were the Sherbrook (a 32% drop) Civic Centre Pool (a 47% drop) and Centennial Pool (a 46% drop.) Some of the credit was given to continually rising swim fees throughout the 1980s.

The lower operating costs of the newer pools and fewer socio-economic problems in suburban areas combined to make the Sherbrook Pool costlier to run with just 13% of its operation costs made back in fees, (other pools were in the 27% range.) In a September 26, 1991 Free Press article, a city official said that in 1990 the Sherbrook Pool cost taxpayers $10.33 per user versus an average of $3.86 per user at other facilities. The 15,000 free swims provided at the Sherbrook Pool that year was a major factor.

November 2, 1985, Winnipeg Free Press

Options for what to do with the pool were presented to council in February 1986. They ranged from spending $112,000 to fix the leaky roof to extend the life of the pool for a couple of years, spending $360,000 for a 10-year fix or spending $3.6m to build a new pool on another, unnamed, site.

The Sherbrook Pool did have its supporters, both on council and in the community. They argued that the unique circumstances of the pool's catchment area made comparisons with suburban pools unfair. The Sherbrook's clientele were mainly small children, seniors and low income people who did not own vehicles. If the pool closed most would not make their way to the nearest recreation centre, they simply would stop participating.

September 27, 1986, Winnipeg Free Press

In the end, the recreation committee voted to leave the final decision in the hands of the City Centre-Fort Rouge Community Committee. It voted on March 3, 1986 to reopen the pool. On April 9 city council approved $405,000 for the repairs, including underpinning the west wall and $45,000 to make it wheelchair accessible. 

The Sherbrook Pool reopened on September 27, 1986.

September 16, 1991, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1988 the city and a West End residents' group were working together on a plan to expand a park in the Spence neighbourhood. The project did not happen, so the group set its sights on adding amenities to the Sherbrook Pool instead. Ideas ranged from tearing out the bleachers for an exercise area to expanding the footprint of the facility.

The city agreed to renovate the pool and expand it to include a leisure centre at a cost of $1.46 million. It would be a test model for revitalizing other community pools and recreation facilities.

In advance of the renovations an engineer's report was done. It claimed that the pool was in such bad shape that the money set aside for its expansion, and more, would be needed just to shore up the failing foundation. 

The city concluded that the cost of the renovation and expansion would be in the range of $3.5 million and that the best option would be to tear it down replace it with a $1.46 million recreation centre and outdoor wading pool.

In the midst of all this, on June 6, 1991, the city declared the Sherbrook Pool a municipal heritage site.

September 24, 1991, Winnipeg Free Press

The city held an open house on September 25 and 26, 1991 to present this new plan. As expected, there was opposition from individual pool users, neighbourhood organizations, Swim Manitoba and Manitoba Special Olympics.

That October the pool got a reprieve of sorts. The $1.46 million that was to be spent to expand the pool into a leisure centre instead went to creating the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre at 430 Langside Street. The city agreed to keep funding the Sherbrook Pool for just two more years and would only consider an extension if the community came up with ideas on how to increase its usage.

Sherbrook Pool Historic Buildings Committee
A Community Development Vision for Sherbrook Pool CCPA
My Flickr album of the Sherbrook Pool

Sherbrook Pool stuck in drainage cycle Winnipeg Sun (Jan 26, 2013)
Sherbrook Pool might stay afloat Free Press (Jan 24, 2013)
City gets Olympic push to fix pools Free Press (Jan 23, 2013)
Many Woes at Sherbrook Pool Free Press (Jan 21, 2013)
Maddin to mayor: keep pool in picture Free Press (Jan 12, 2013)
Sharks to fight for Sherbrook Pool Winnipeg Sun (Dec 2012)
Sherbrook Pool to remain closed Global (Dec 2012)
Sherbrook Pool closure worries community group CBC (Dec 2012)

See the end of part four for the latest media links

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