Picking a Lane for Windsor’s pools

Mayor Dilkens at the Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre. Photo Jon Liedtke Aug 1 2015 Mayor Dilkens at the Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre. Photo Jon Liedtke Aug 1 2015

Op-Ed by Melinda Munro

The ideology of swimming is back under discussion in Windsor with the recent decision of City Council to double down on closing the municipal pool at Adie Knox Herman Community Centre. On the one hand, we have a Council focussed on efficiency and cost management taking the position that Wards 1 and 2 have access to two world class pools in the Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre and the new Lancer Pool at the University of Windsor. On the other hand, we have the residents and nearby organizations who have been saying for years that Olympic pools are not what they want or need. 

The debate about what municipal pools are for is an old one. North American cities began constructing swimming or bathing pools in the 19th century as a way to help reduce disease and keep people clean. They were also a resource that helped reduce the likelihood of drowning by teaching children how to swim. In the 20th century, municipal pools were, regrettably, places of gender and race segregation. 

Now in a time of great municipal austerity, pools are seen as an unnecessary municipal expense. School pools were all closed years ago for the same reason. I understand the research for the City’s most recent Recreation Master Plan included counting private residential pools as a way to gauge interest in public pools; i.e. the more private pools the less need for public ones? Perhaps unremarkably in Canada, while year round ice rinks are equally a drain on the taxpayer, our hockey-mad nation doesn’t begrudge the huge subsidy that public funding of rinks accounts for to hockey leagues. 

In the spirit of the decision on Adie Knox pool coming back to Council, I decided to go swimming at the Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre. Some observations about my experience of modern recreational swimming in Windsor:

The aquatic centre is an awesome pool for people who want to swim lanes. I love swimming there. I used to swim at Waterworld and the downtown YMCA before they closed. They were dreadful for a lane swimmer. Waterworld was too warm and full of people fiddle farting around; the city never put up lane dividers and I got tired of running into people or having them run into me. I was told at the time that the city kept all of the municipal pools warm because people liked it that way and that they didn’t use lane markers because no one used the pools for fitness swimming. Seems that times have changed.

Aside from the economic impact, even if we inspire one person to get in the water and train then it’s worth it. Every kid has potential and if you can untap and unlock that potential and you give them a good coach and great facilities like we have in Windsor you can get performance like Kylie Masse delivers.”

Mayor Dilkens, 2016, The Windsor Star

The aquatic centre is showing its age. It has been open for about 9 years and it shows. The finishes were not done properly and are coming apart. The exterior accessible door actuators are not working. There are not nearly enough accessible private change rooms. Rather than spend more money on slides at Adventure Bay waterpark, fix the doors, change rooms and finishes. 

The aquatic centre is not a pool to which you would ride your bike with your friends on a Saturday to learn to have fun in water and do handstands. It is for lane swimmers. There were a lot of folks swimming faster than me and some who were slower, toodling up and down the lane getting some fitness for sore joints, but there is nowhere in the building for a bunch of eight year olds who want to practice diving off the side, play tag or learn to do handstands (if it isn’t clear, among my happiest childhood memories are learning to do handstands at the city pool.) I have subsequently learned that the child swimming lessons happen in an auxiliary pool in the Adventure Bay side of the facility, not in the main pool. 

The core needs a pool for people who want to fiddle fart around and learn to do handstands. Pools shouldn’t only be built for future Olympians anymore than municipal bike paths should be built for Tour de France riders. In this modern age, I can see the value of a pool for future Olympians (and us fitness swimmers). One pool for them, and lots of pools for everyone else.

All that said, when the aquatic centre was first proposed, I supported the closure of Water World and Adie Knox because I assumed that the new pool would include options for riding your bike and learning to do handstands. But it doesn’t and isn’t built for that. The aquatic centre only supports adults and athletes. The Lancer Pool is for adults and athletes. I have come to understand why Adie Knox needs to stay as a community pool. Our mayor recently said that the Lancer pool is getting rave reviews. I wonder if he has asked any eight year olds.

Municipal recreation facilities are for everyone. The 2019 Municipal Recreation Master Plan strongly recommended keeping Adie Knox open for the reasons I set out. We blew it when we let Council close it.

My response to the Mayor’s comments in 2016? If even one person is deterred from getting in the pool because it is built only for adults and athletes, then it’s not worth it.

Op-Ed by Melinda Munro

This Op-Ed appeared first on Rose City Politics, July 27 2022

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