Stacey Rennie

Excitement swells around new South Surrey aquatic centre

Much-anticipated Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre now expected fully operational in March.

Officials behind the long-anticipated Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre in South Surrey say the discovery last month of a leaking air pipe in the leisure pool was a small setback and a huge relief, all at the same time.

The setback was largely because it was noticed after the 500-square-metre pool had been filled. It then took a couple weeks to pinpoint and even longer to fix, Scott Groves, the city’s civic facilities manager, said during a tour of the 16855 24 Ave. facility this week.

The relief, Groves added, is that it was found before the $55-million centre’s opening day. Had it gone unnoticed until the facilities were in use, a temporary closure would have been required, disrupting operations and creating additional expense and inconvenience.

Leisure pool and waterslide“I’m so happy we found it during construction,” Groves said. “They actually had to jackhammer the wall… to find it. It was quite a mess.”

The aquatic centre has been in the works for more than three years, after it was announced alongside plans for a similar centre in Guildford, which opened last March.

While opening of the Grandview centre has been delayed before – it was initially expected to be ready in summer of 2014 – Groves said the air leak did not substantially impact the finish date, which is now pushed to March.

Repairs got underway this month, and the process of refilling the pool is to begin Tuesday.

Stacey Rennie, the city’s manager of community and recreation services for South Surrey, said staff training and user-group testing is to take place through January and February.

Wandering through the facility Tuesday, Rennie and Groves pointed out several highlights they’re confident the public will enjoy, from a hot waterfall to the eight-metre-high waterslide to the high-capacity spectator seating that was “designed with the intent that we’ll hopefully attract some pro events.”

Ten lanes – instead of the usual eight – in the 50-metre pool, which also boasts the largest movable floor in B.C., “bring it to another level of competition,” Groves said.

He acknowledged that local user groups early in the process criticized the facility as too small, but said a balance had to be found to serve the entire community. Once complete, it’ll be able to host recreational swimmers, lessons and user groups all at the same time.

Universal change rooms – an open layout accessible to all ages and genders, with lockers and a dozen private stalls and showers – are expected to keep thefts to a minimum. In Guildford, where the same change-room concept and sturdy plastic lockers were implemented, there have been no thefts reported.

“It’s absolutely unheard of in a pool environment,” Groves noted.

A 9,000-square-foot fitness area overlooks the pools, with views also to the north and west.

Groves said details of the facility’s wavy roof have been shared internationally. Creating optical illusions of a sort – from the top of the 10-metre diving platform, it appears to rest just above Grove’s head – the Douglas fir beams were hung over eight days, each carefully placed by crane. The curve adds not only a unique look, but also cuts down on energy costs.

Rennie and Groves, both South Surrey residents and parents themselves, said they can relate to the public’s eagerness to see the aquatic centre ready.

Rennie said those invited to test the water early will include groups who were consulted on its design, including elementary students who’d sent drawings of what they’d like to see.

Not every suggestion could be accommodated, Groves noted. “Our slide doesn’t look like a dragon, but it’s still a waterslide,” he said.

At the beginning of the project, Groves said he gave those involved a goal to focus on, telling them, “I want every kid to be looking at this building and yelling to their parents, stop I want to go in,” he said.

“I think we did it.”

 

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