Vernon Kokanee head coach Tyson Wellock reaches over from the pool deck to discuss strategy with swimmer Liam Williamson. (Lisa VanderVelde.Morning Star)

Vernon Kokanee seek longer, newer pool

Vernon club aims to help bring a 50-metre pool to the city

Not enough pool time for club members. Poor air quality. Lack of spectator viewing, storage, dryland and fitness facilities.

The Vernon Kokanee Swim Club says it’s time for Vernon to get a new swimming pool, and a 50-metre one at that, to replace the existing 25m pool at the Vernon Aquatic Centre in the Vernon Recreation Complex.

“Greater Vernon deserves a facility commensurate with its populations and the other recreational facilities in the area,” said Kokanee club past president Jason Shortt. “The Vernon Kokanee Swim Club is ready and willing to do its part to help make this new facility a reality, and looks forward to working with all the interested parties to make this happen.”

The Kokanee have been in operation since 1966, matching the time of construction and opening of the original rec centre pool (facility celebrated its 50th birthday in 2017). Over the past five years, Kokanee membership has been static in the 170-175 range.

For five years, the club has been attempting to acquire additional pool time to expand competitive swim services to a greater number of athletes. The club has been unsuccessful in getting additional pool time in the coveted 3 to 5 p.m. slot, ideal for the club’s younger swimmers, and have trouble getting lanes during school days, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., to allow them to provide a successful swim academy program.

Ongoing air quality issues have been the subject of several attempted fixes over the year.

“It, no doubt, has had an impact on swimmer numbers as the air quality has been the cause of several athletes to discontinue their involvement,” said Shortt, adding the club’s storage in the pool basement is subject to flooding each year as BX-Swan Lake Creek rises with spring runoff.

The Kokanee, have produced Olympic, Paralympic, World Championship, University, Pan-Am and Commonwealth Games swimmers over the years, but have trouble hosting major meets — which also serve as fundraisers — because the current pool is poorly designed for crowds.

There are concerns about fire safety when bleachers are set up and spectators and teams are on-deck, and warm-down facilities for the athletes during the meet are insufficient. Swim meet attendance at the Kokanee events has been hampered as Shortt said other clubs in the region say the facility is a motivating factor in not coming to Vernon.

RELATED: Master recreation plan in works

Shortt said a 50m pool would be the ideal long-range solution for aquatic sports in the North Okanagan.

“A 50m long-course pool would provide for the full range of aquatic sports: diving, water polo, synchronized swimming, summer swimming, many of which are currently prohibited by the existing pool,” he said. “Vernon is the only major Okanagan city without a summer swim program.

“There is currently no capacity for additional lane space at the Vernon Rec Centre for a summer swim program, which can be a springboard to interest in winter swim program and a key athlete source for full-time swim programs.”

The Kokanee have support from Vernon Masters swimmer Mike Stamhuis, who has spent 2018 breaking more than a dozen provincial and national age-group records.

“The community should take its time and do it right,” said Stamhuis, 64, retired District of Coldstream CAO. “I don’t believe they should hurry and we need a 50m pool tomorrow. I believe over the next 10 years, this existing facility will be further seen as deficient in meeting our needs. It is getting older. A lot of it is due for replacement, probably now.”

A recreation master plan in Greater Vernon is underway.

“We’re about halfway through the process,” said Doug Ross, director of recreation services. “In all the surveys we’ve put out to stakeholders, the public, youth, one of the facilities on the list was a new aquatic centre. We asked people what they would like to see and the pool was on there.”

Results from the survey have not been made public as of yet.



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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