Last week, news came through unofficial
channels that Laurentian University won’t re-open
the Jeno Tihanyi Olympic Gold Pool this fall. Again.
There was no press release issued, nor
was the list of issues released.
What if there was a way forward on the pool?
Back in 2007, the pool’s masters
swim team hosted provincial championships and welcomed
more than 350 swimmers in fine tradition to Sudbury and
(I would just add that for years afterwards,
other clubs asked us to host again.)
Thanks to tight budgeting, some amazing
deals, and support from the City of Greater Sudbury’s
sports tourism side, the meet made a profit.
At the time, I was on the organizing committee
and well knew that masters paid their bill and proceeded
to share the profits.
A portion went to the age group swim club
that helped run the event to upgrade their computers for
swim meets. A portion went to support training swim officials.
And about $10,000 was redirected to fund upgrades to the
Ken Bahnuk Lounge in the Ben Avery complex.
Sexy electrical upgrades and an expanded
counter space in the kitchen were the result of that small
A plaque was on the wall to remember the
donation. The lounge was chosen because everyone from
students to birthday parties and community groups uses
Just what does the pool need?
I have spent the past year trying to come
to the bottom of the pool needs.
Last December, after months of petitions
and public pressure, the university said the pool and
the Ben F. Avery complex in which it is housed need at
least $10 million in repairs and upgrades. No list has
A leaked KPMG report that served as the
basis for keeping the pool closed didn’t really
specify. In fact, that report is more of a way forward
for funding recreation.
So gathered from that report, other sources
and rumours circulating, here is my list:
– From the KPMG report: Replacement
of the chemical filtration system, roof repairs, replacement
lights with LEDs (cost saving and known prior to COVID-19),
change room upgrades, outside stair and lighting, and,
also turf replacement. For a soccer field?
– From any visit to the facility:
Painting, tile work, renovation of showers and change
rooms, replacement of bulkhead and starting blocks.
– From rumour: Removal of the towers.
– From my personal wish list: Hot
tub (needs) and sauna (replacement) but I’d take
the obvious, much-needed renovation of the change rooms.
The pool has been shuttered since March 11, 2020. In April
2021, the university cut its winning varsity swim team
and hockey teams as part of the creditor protection process.
I have whined with the best of them about
all this, my bias for swimming splitting open like an
overused bathing cap on a swimmer’s forehead.
The level of sadness has left people talking
about uplifting subjects. How’s the pandemic going?
At least we’re swimming in the lakes.
When I first moved to Sudbury so long
ago, I bought a membership at the pool before finding
I had been working in a town without a
swimming pool. Now, New Liskeard has a pool facility on
the town’s glorious waterfront.
Oh, the irony.
With the pool not opening this fall, all
the community groups — from masters to swim clubs
to synchronized swimming to the program for children with
specialities — will be scrambling again for pool
space within the City of Greater Sudbury’s pools.
One wonders how everyone will fit with
pandemic restrictions on capacity and regular programming
in the city’s four, 25-metre pools (no wider than
six lanes) and one small, but vital pool in Onaping Falls.
Our municipal pools certainly aren’t
like Hungary’s out-of-this-world-how-do-they-do-it-pools
I swam in back in 2018 (oh, those good old days) but our
local pools are serviceable, happy community spaces.
The community groups who rely on the university
facility — and arguably helped keep it running for
years — are open to ideas. We all knew our fees
were likely to increase and knew so long before the KPMG
report. As we emerge from the pandemic,
there have been calls at the national level to focus on
getting people moving and back to sport.
I’ve reported how groups from Lifesaving
Society to Swimming Canada are concerned, especially about
what the age group 8-12 has lost and might never have
because pools have been kept closed.
I walked by the Ben Avery awhile back
and wondered what was really going on in there.
Beyond the pandemic, what changed since
the evening of March 10, when everyone from varsity to
synchro and age group kids were all in the pool?
If there hadn’t been a pandemic,
would the pool still be open?
I walked past and remembered how many
of us met our spouses on the pool deck. How on the day
I gave birth to my second child, I swam, but didn’t
mention the butterfly length I’d swum to my LU graduate
of a midwife. (How much information does she really need
I think about the children who need to
swim for life, for lessons and competition — the
age groupers and the children with special needs who loved
their SWAM (Swimming with a Mission) program.
And so, my two cents?A
clear list of what’s going on.
Open the pool, get people paying. Allocate
and show that a portion of those fees are funding a concrete
list of renovations and upgrades.
We swimmers will be glad to help.
Laura Young’s Personal Best
column runs regularly in The Sudbury Star.