By Kathy Bly
For the Sunny South News
The idea of upgrading and modernizing the aquatic centre in Picture Butte was pitched to town council last week.
At the Mar. 9 regular council meeting, the Picture Butte and District Recreation and Culture Committee appeared as a delegation to council, outlining some of the preliminary work they have done on the proposed project.
Committee member Jen Nieboer said one of the priorities for the committee has been looking at ideas for developing around the existing town pool. The committee’s presentation, under the heading Aquatic Centre Modernization and Expansion Project, has been in the works for a number of months.
“This is a real passion of mine,” noted Nieboer, who was a lifeguard in southern Alberta for 10 years.
She said in a community like Picture Butte there is a need to appeal to young families, especially as the town looks to develop new subdivisions. The current pool does not fit the needs of families with small children, she added.
Nieboer said Picture Butte has a lot going for it but a strong selling point, going forward, could be the addition of an aquatic centre geared to families.
“It has a lot going for it,” she said, of the town.
She provided council with an overview of the pool usage in Picture Butte noting the average throughout the summer months is 10 kids per hour making use of the facility.
“I believe you could increase those numbers substantially.”
As a mom herself of young children, Nieboer said she drives to Coaldale, Raymond or Nobleford to make use of their spray parks, tot lots and pools and she is not alone.
“There is no room for exploration,” she said, of the Picture Butte pool, officially known as the Lions Aquatic Centre.
The pool does not have a shallow end suitable for young children and nothing by the way of apparatuses such as those found at spray parks.
She said it’s important to catch children when they are very young and introduce them to swimming in order to attract them back to the pool, as they grow up.
“We need to get them when they are younger.”
She said the committee has been looking at a facility upgrade and expansion that would appeal to all user groups in the community. She noted such an expansion could also draw people to Picture Butte creating a spin-off benefit for local businesses.
Committee member Charlie Clarke also addressed council and said the committee would like to see something developed in the town that would, “put Picture Butte on the map.”
“We want to be talked about.”
The preliminary plan includes a pool house and multi-use centre that could accommodate indoor sports, recreation programming and meeting facilities. It could also house new change rooms for the existing aquatic centre, which Clarke noted are in need of a huge upgrade.
The multi-use facility could also benefit seniors, said Clarke, who are often closed in through the winter months due to the snow and ice.
“It can be used for multiple age groups.”
She said the building could be used for fitness classes for seniors and gymnastics for toddlers and other such programs.
“We’re really asking the community, what would you like?”
Clarke said there are school gyms in the community but they are booked up with sports teams.
She also noted families often drive to Lethbridge to host birthday parties, showers and other events that could be hosted in Picture Butte, if there was a multi-use facility in town.
“Currently we’re driving to Lethbridge too much,” said Nieboer.
The committee is already looking into grants, fundraising and private sponsors to support the idea of upgrading and modernizing the aquatic centre facilities.
“Council does appreciate all the work your committee has done,” said Mayor Wendy Jones, noting the presentation will be reviewed in more detail by town council at its Mar. 16 council-of-the-whole meeting.
Mayor Jones also questioned whether the committee has approached Lethbridge County with their proposal.
“This should be a joint effort.”
While the committee has not yet taken that step, they did agree it was one of the steps in the process of developing the ideas further.
“We have a lot of work to do on this,” said Clarke.