Loud splashes and happy shrieks from the pool were amplified in the bright and airy lobby of the Kinsmen Sherbrook Pool on Sat. Feb. 18 during the Pool Party. More than four long years after it closed due to structural issues on Nov. 29, 2012, the renovated and refreshed pool was being shown off.
Many in the West End community who had worried their beloved pool would never re-open were enjoying the warm water the pool is known for. Others milled about in the lobby talking to members of the Friends of Sherbrook Pool or FOSP, the remarkable volunteer board that never gave up in their fight to save the pool.
Back in 2012, critics and naysayers felt the $4 million price tag for fixing and renovating the heritage building built in 1931 was just too high.
The city had wanted to close Sherbrook Pool since their own report in 2004 favoured multi use facilities and they didn’t think enough people used it to make the repairs cost effective.
Things were looking bleak for the pool. But then the tide changed and money started to come in thanks to the efforts of the FOSP and many other diverse community groups, concerned citizens and various levels of government.
When the Kinsmen Club donated $1 million, the pool’s future was secured. Or was it? Each time the FOSP planned a re-opening party, another structural or mechanical problem would pop up like that whack-a-mole arcade game.
Alan Doyle was one of the many patrons who brought his kids on Saturday. He was effusive in his praise for the pool.
“It’s amazing, it’s wonderful. I know it shut down for a while. I was like, ‘What?'”
Paul Van Neste is an old timer – 90 years old – who was also at the free swim and party.
“You know I think this is great,” he said.
“He’s very excited,” added Paul’s daughter Stephanie. “He’s just been so worried it wasn’t going to open.”
Before the free swim there was lunch of chili, veggies and bread catered by Food Connections, a social enterprise run by Wolseley Family Place.
The two beautiful cakes were purchased from The Cottage Bakery. One was decorated with” Welcome Back to the” written on the whipped cream icing and the other finished the phrase with “Kinsmen Sherbrook Pool” and a picture of the pool in icing.
“We’re really grateful for the hard work of the fundraisers and the volunteer board,” said volunteer Katherine Carruthers who was serving the cake . “It [the pool] is one of the necessities of the community.”
By 2:45 p.m. about 100 people had been through the renovated facility, according to a city employee. “Oh my God, people are just so happy,” he exclaimed.
The damp hair and wet swimsuits in the lobby were just one more sign of normalcy. It’s business almost back to normal at the pool.
FOSP member Shirley Stone is one of the 70 Chemo-Savvy breast cancer dragon boat team members who use the pool for paddling training, aquafit and lifesaving skills practice. She is happy the specialized Arthritis aquafit, Arthritis/Fibromyalga aquafit and MS aquafit are back on the schedule.
“The best thing is to keep active and the easiest thing for your joints is the warm water provided free of charge here at Sherbrook Pool,” she said.
“We need to meet the community where they are,” said FOSB co-ordinator, Daniel Thau-Eleff, who specializes in collaborative programming.
“The FOSP recognize that it’s not as simple as advertising free swimming classes in the leisure guide, opening the doors and hoping people show up. People face all sorts of barriers,” said Thau-Eleff.
“We need to bring the pool to the people and the people to the pool,” he added.
The FOSP are holding two Idea Jams in March at the West End Cultural Centre, 586 Ellice at Sherbrook.
The first is Mar. 16 at 1-3 p.m. and the second is on Mar. 18 also at 1-3 p.m. They want community residents to dream big in imagining activities and programs for the pool so they can collaborate with the city on making them happen.
Sometimes the simplest things can be a barrier. As well as low income barriers, a previous survey discovered that many people don’t swim as they don’t have a friend to go with.
The Idea Jams will be facilitated by the FOSP and staff from Spence Neighbourhood Association to uncover other things that stop people from using the pool and fitness facility. They will be serving coffee, tea and snacks and hope people come out, have fun and join in the discussion.
The FOSP has also started offering their free swim classes again and you can find the registration forms at the pool or online. There are loonie/toonie swims on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday. Free swims are offered on Friday and Saturday. So come on in, the water’s warm, really. And if there’s a class you’ve always wanted to see offered at the pool why not suggest it at an Idea Jam.