Province denies $20 million grant application for Princeton’s aquatic centre

Mayor Spencer Coyne said an indoor pool is not dead in the water

An artist’s rendition of the interior of the proposed Princeton aquatic centre.

An artist’s rendition of the interior of the proposed Princeton aquatic centre.

The province has turned down Princeton’s $20 million request for funds to build an indoor pool.

The municipality was notified late March 19 that its grant application was not successful.

“I’m surprised, frankly,” said Mayor Spencer Coyne, noting there had been previous indications from higher levels of government that the plan was viewed favorably.

“I’m going to try to find a silver lining.”

Related: New Princeton council takes pool plunge

The town applied for the grant in January 2019, under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.

The notification from the province indicated “they were inundated with requests,” said Coyne.

The letter to the town reads, in part: “The program received significantly more applications than could be funded. This decision does not reflect on the importance of this project for your community, but rather the degree by which the program has been oversubscribed”.

Creating the proposal and making the application cost Princeton approximately $135,000.

The facility was to include a five-lane lap pool up to 6.8 feet deep, a leisure pool with tots area, overhead sprays and rehabilitation features, a lazy river, hot pool, upper level walking track, pickleball courts and exercise area, coffee bar, party and meeting rooms.

It was to be built on the former Overwaitea property on Bridge Street, a lot that was gifted to the municipality to be used for a community amenity.

Related: Princeton councillor presses for pool funding, while opinions vary

The total cost of the project was estimated at $27 million, with the municipality contributing $7 million taken from reserve accounts, corporate donations, fundraising, further grants, donations in kind and sponsorships.

Coyne said he will look at the decision as “an opportunity to have a different discussion…That’s what we need to focus on.”

He acknowledged the scope of the proposed facility was somewhat controversial.

“The proposal was put forward by a previous council and there have been individuals who have questioned it.”

The idea of an indoor pool for Princeton has been floated several times in the past few decades. The mayor recalled one of the earliest proposals – to locate a pool at the arena – was put to referendum when he was in elementary school.

The pool dream is not dead in the water, he stated.

Coyne said the town will hold public meetings to receive feedback on the viability of an indoor pool, and hopes eventually to receive community “buy-in.”

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