Hodge: Bring back Regatta, Aquatic Centre pool and stands

It’s a classic example of how a small group of people with a good idea…can create positive change in their community.

All the various wise sayings about the past and future bounce around the brain in conflict and affirmation—don’t let the past get in the way of the future; yesterday is dead and gone, and tomorrow is out of sight; constant change is here to stay.

It’s hard to step forward if one foot is pointing back—the list goes on and on.

Depending upon opinion, desire or debate taking place, one can always find the perfect words to match the scenario.

Regardless, a number of long-time local yokels are kicking the dust off an old fond memory hoping to use it as stimulus to create a fun and effective future for Kelowna.

Brian Sprout, Don Burnett, and a growing number of other long-time Kelowna residents are attempting to resurrect the creation of a new Aquatic Centre in City Park.

I salute them for their hard work and vision. They have my complete support. It’s a concept that demands plenty of time, energy, communication, and money to become a reality—yet one I believe will succeed.

Best of all, it’s a classic example of how a small group of people with a good idea and the right impetus and determination can create positive change in their community.

The idea of recreating a fun, family friendly and financially feasible replica of the popular outdoor swimming and open-air entertainment area in City Park has been kicked around ever since the original building burnt to the ground in the late 1960s.

I still recall with absolute shock standing on Hot Sands beach that day and watching flames engulf the wooden grand stands, outdoor pool and stage on the park’s north-west corner beachfront.

Apparently, a couple of kids were smoking under the tinder dry stands and accidentally left a cigarette burning.

Regardless of the cause, a facility that played host to hundreds of events during annual Regatta festivals and other summer events in Kelowna was suddenly gone.

In hindsight, it was the beginning of the end of an era for our park, considered by some as marking the park’s ‘end of innocence’ timeline.

Certainly it impacted future Regatta events, marked the beginning of the end of the outdoor, fresh water pool popularity.

Kelowna residents only assumed it would be a short matter of time before the structure returned. But it never did.

These past two weeks, however, residents Sprout and Burnett and others have kick-started the idea of rebuilding the grandstands, outdoor pool with diving boards, and other such amenities back on the original site.

Sprout posted the idea on his Facebook page and hundreds of current and former area residents have responded positively.

Sprout and friends are looking at possibly forming a non-profit organization to spearhead the project, and are planning on selling ‘shares’ for $25 to help begin the fundraising. The response has been amazing.

“I think the state of our City Park is a shame and the fact that the old Aquatic Centre was never returned is sad. For many years I’ve heard people say it’s too bad it was never rebuilt and finally I thought it was time to at least see if there was some serious interest in the idea,” Sprout told me earlier this week.

“I figured it was time to find out so I posted the idea after talking to a couple of friends and it has just taken off.”


“Some folks might think this is just a bunch of old guys who are stuck in the past and want to recreate the good old days,” said Burnett, who hosts his own gardening radio show on AM 1150 every Saturday morning and writes a gardening column for the Capital News.

“Well, they’re right, we are. But it is also much more than that. Regardless of whether you lived here back then (when the original facility existed) or not, there is no question that a facility like this is needed and wanted in the park,” Burnett said.

“City Park was and is a place for locals and tourists alike to enjoy our wonderful beaches and water, hang around the downtown area, and take in everything wonderful about Kelowna.

“That facility brought life into the park and the downtown and would do so again.

“I really think this can happen if we give it a real effort.”

I concur.

My fondest memories as a youth was the ability to go to the park and take part in Regatta swimming events for free, watch performances in a safe, fun environment, and meet with friends.

The old facility offered and inspired that and a similar facility would do so again.

I take the group’s facility plan a step further and hope to see it complimented by a return of the actual Regatta itself again.

I am not talking about a huge corporate, expensive event, but a fun, family oriented, community event in the park—sans the restrictive fences and outrageous fees.

Regardless, this Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. Sprout, Burnett and others (including moi) will be meeting at the old pool stands location and rallying support for the event.

“We are not looking for any money at this time, we are simply collecting names of people who are supportive of the plan and want to see our goal move forward,” Sprout explained.

I hope to see you there because your indicated support does matter.

Sometimes, taking a page from the past can assist with writing a wonderful script for the future.


Kelowna Capital News