Should the old City Kinsmen Swimming Pool be destroyed or converted into a senior citizen’s activity centre?
As president of the Battlefords Heritage Society, I would be remiss if I did not comment on the City’s intent to destroy the old North Battleford and Kinsmen Swimming Pool (Kinsmen Aquatic Centre), the proposed construction of a seniors’ apartment complex on the site by a Saskatoon Company, the potential to save the basically sound old swimming pool and use it for an important community purpose, and attendant issues.
The old City Kinsmen Swimming Pool qualifies as a historic building A structure has to be old enough, but it doesn’t have to be a 100 years old to be historic. A half-century can be old enough if other essential factors are present. 1950s diners are considered historic buildings, for example.
First, the style of the old pool is unique to the decade in which it was constructed. The building has a distinctive 1960s arched (semicircular) roof line – a Quonset style of architecture, and a unique ‘60s dark brown exterior brick facade. Only one other building in North Battleford was built in this style, as far as I know – the old Safeway building on 101st Street, across from City Hall - now covered by dark brown metal cladding.
Second, the significance of the building to the community must also be considered. The old Kinsmen swimming pool was an important social, recreational, cultural and athletic centre since 1966. Citizens of every age – from young tots with their mothers to senior citizens, and scuba divers in training and aqua fitness classes regularly used the pool. Generation after generation of children from the Battlefords and surrounding communities were bussed from their schools to the pool for swimming lessons. In the early days, I remember my younger brother being bussed from Martin Gran School in Meadow Lake for swimming lessons at the Kinsmen pool. As a physical education teacher at Cairns Junior High School in the early ‘70s, I accompanied many hundreds of students to the pool for swimming lessons. There can be no doubt the old pool was extraordinarily important to the citizens of North Battleford, Battleford and surrounding communities for many decades.
Finally, the building must be of sufficient quality to qualify as a historic building. The old Kinsmen swimming pool is solid. Its exterior walls are straight and true; its roof should do for another 20 years or so. The interior walls and ceiling appear to be in relatively good shape as well. Rooms constructed of cinderblock tend to age well. The outstanding feature of the pool is its full-span arched fir rafters and tongue and groove cedar roof – unique in the Battlefords.
However, if the old pool is to be saved, renovated and used, any who would take on this project should know the heating system is problematic and needs to be replaced. I’ve heard reports it will take millions of dollars to restore the old swimming pool, and that replacing the heating system alone would cost about $1,000,000. Frankly, I can’t see that. I used to own the Battlefords Athletic Club (the city’s first gym – a health and fitness club) – now Alumni Glass by John Bridges Pontiac – for the better part of the decade of the ‘80s. The building was new then. We had two roof-mounted furnaces to heat and air-condition a 5,000 square-foot building. A great deal of expense was saved on duct work. The furnaces are still there, and in use.
Rather than fill in the pool, which would require removing a section of exterior wall, trucking in many tons of fill, then pouring a concrete floor that would be expensive, it would make sense to run centre posts and 2 x 12 joists perpendicular to the length of the pool, glue and screw down a plywood floor and install a finished floor over that. In order to save a great deal of initial expense, it would also be expedient to close off the bottom level (to consider for later use) and develop the ground level – about 6,000 square feet.
Despite my optimism, I know that renovating the interior would not be inexpensive. The question is whether the cost would be justified in terms of saving a historic building and pragmatically using a basically sound structure for an important community purpose. I think it would, but a careful assessment by locally qualified people would be necessary to determine this.
The imperative of a seniors’ residential centre would likely trump the cultural and historical value of the old swimming pool if there was no where else to build it other than directly on site of the old pool. But why this location? Is this where seniors want it? Did someone ask them? This location has some attractive features to be sure. But there is also an 800 student high school immediately to the east, school buses and high school congested traffic in the mornings before classes commence to the south, at noon and after school, soccer games to the west, a baseball park close by, congested parking lots and bumper to bumper traffic at North Stars Hockey games and crowds at events at the track.
What’s the draw for this location? Horseshoes? Horseshoe pits are relatively easy and inexpensive to construct anywhere. It’s a different story for tennis courts, which would have to be relocated. Even so, if seniors want a facility at this location, then we should support it, although I think we could still save the pool and use it to our seniors’ advantage. Our seniors are a large demographic in North Battleford. They built this city and sustained it for many decades. They deserve our admiration, respect and support. We should all be behind the Battlefords’ Enhanced Living Centre Inc. in its quest to build the Snowy Owl Manor, for example. Our seniors also deserve a state of the art senior citizens activity centre.
To be continued ...