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Victoria's Crystal Pool replacement's proposed costs triple to $210M

50-year-old centre's condition has created service gaps plus obstacles for those living with disabilities
Victoria is looking at a $210 million replacement for the city's aging Crystal Pool. (Black Press Media file photo)

Victoria council is being advised to proceed with a replacement of Crystal Pool at the recreational facility's current site.

A staff report heading to council Thursday (June 13) includes that recommendation, along with the direction to hold a referendum on borrowing $180 million to cover the costs of the long-talked-about replacement project. 

The 50-year-old centre's condition has created service gaps and obstacles for those living with disabilities, staff said, adding the building is also the city's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Critical repairs have been made to the site over the last five years to maintain service. 

Council last year directed staff to identify potential sites for a new centre and to prepare for a referendum that would seek approval for the project's associated long-term debt. A consultant assessed three sites within the same couple blocks of North Park and concluded that the existing location would be the most economical and efficient option. Keeping the centre at its current home on the northern portion of Central Park would also lead to a shorter construction timeline, reduced complexity and lower risk, the consultant found.  

Using the current site would be the cheapest of the three options and would have a total project cost of $209 million. The city eyes $30 million of that total coming from its debt reduction reserve fund. 

Since the existing facility would have to be closed during construction, city staff are proposing that the city offer recreational services at Crystal Garden during the years-long building period. 

Should a referendum be held, residents would be asked to respond yes or no to the city's request to borrow the necessary funds to develop a new facility. 

A previous feasibility study was done in 2017, which led council at that time to allocate $70 million toward the replacement. The project was eventually put on hold in early 2020 due to the impacts of the pandemic. Council last year revived the planning and budgeting process, and also put about $1.8 million toward a new feasibility study.   

A new feasibility study being presented on Thursday says cost escalations are primarily due to the unprecedented increase in construction costs, due to labour shortages and higher material prices. 

A new project timeline envisions an almost two-year design period, followed by three-and-a-half years of construction. 

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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