Should the old City Kinsmen Swimming Pool be destroyed or converted into a senior citizensí activity centre?
Where might this extraordinary seniorsí facility be located you may rhetorically ask? The old Kinsmen Swimming Pool should be converted to the North Battleford Seniorsí Activity Centre Ė a facility of exceptional quality and appeal Ė designed for seniors, and perhaps even designed by seniors. Even if this location may not be ideal for a residence, it would be a wonderful location for a seniorsí activity centre. I walked around it one day trying to envision the potential of this building for our seniors.
The City should immediately rethink its plans to destroy this essentially sound historic building. We need to begin looking at our historic and cultural assets through creative lenses instead of calling in the bulldozing crew. What is the potential of this building, and how can our citizens benefit? Why should we wrecking ball a fundamentally sound 50-year-old building when it has decades of life left? Itís time that we as a city start to weigh the historic and cultural costs, and not just the economic costs, when we consider the fate of any historic building.
Letís move away from the notion, as a number of individuals in the business community have suggested ó that we should simply bulldoze the downtown core and start again? We should bulldoze all of the historical and cultural assets we have left in the downtown core and start again? Really? Actually, the sad and tragic truth is that we already have a good start with respect to this approach to downtown revitalization. Look at what has happened to our downtown core? Unbelievable! But I digress.
Itís time to reverse this trend and reclaim our built heritage. Why donít we start with the old Kinsmen Swimming Pool and build it into an exceptional facility for our wonderful seniors? Canít be done? Too expensive? No, if we put our minds, talents, and energies together, we can accomplish this, just like we accomplish everything else.
The old Wolfe-Gormley building on 100th Street was sold by the City for $15,000 with a five-year tax exemption to two young entrepreneurs who gutted the building and renovated it. Itís now ready for tenants. Great. The selling price speaks to the value of real estate in the downtown core, but the exterior historical facade has been preserved and the building is now ready for use. Buildings that are not occupied deteriorate. We have a whole slate of historic and vacant buildings in the downtown core in this unfortunate state as we speak.
After salvaging what it wants, the City should give the aquatic building to a senior citizensí board of trustees who would manage the design, renovations and administration of the their seniorsí facility. If that wouldnít work, the City should turn the old pool over to a local entrepreneur, or group in the private sector who should then develop it into a seniorsí activity centre for all of the cityís seniors Ė a dance hall, lighting and sound system, cards and chess room, pool tables, shuffleboard, a bar, kitchen facilities, a sauna, hot tub, lounge, movie room, etc. It could also be rented out for weddings, banquets, conferences, conventions and other functions. The potential is limitless.
Rather than have another historic building fall under the wrecking ball, this one would retain itís historical and cultural character and be extremely useful and of great benefit to our many seniors at the same time.
Of course, I know its not that simple. There would be many things to work out Ė legal, technical, zoning, financial and jurisdictional. I have no doubt our community-minded and senior-minded service organizations, and the general public, would want to get involved to help our seniors. In fact, many members of our wonderful service organizations are seniors. So they would have a vested interest in this project.
A major fund-raising initiative would doubtlessly need to be undertaken. But we can surmise that this would be eminently successful because it would be for our seniors who have done so much for our citizenry and our city. I have talked to a number of seniors and service club members and Iíve certainly captured their interest. Iíve also talked a leading real estate professional, a long-time builder and construction tradesman, the owner of a plumbing and heating firm, and a former citizen of the year. They think I might be on to something. I can assure that I will talk to many more. Right now, this is in the idea and visionary stage.
I concede that this initiative may not fly. If seniors are not interested and do not wish to invest in this kind of project, and no one else is interested (although the City should solicit the business community and public to gauge interest in this), then I have no doubt that the historic old Kinsmen City Swimming pool will be destroyed and the memory of this vibrant cultural icon that served many thousands of our citizens during the last half- century will fade into oblivion Ė as has the memory of so many of our historic buildings and properties since 1970.
When I attend the public hearing on the fate of the old pool, I will be armed with the demographic, technical, legal and financial information I need to make a very strong case to save the old swimming pool and transform it into a highly appealing and useful facility for our seniors Ė our citizens. I will likely bring a few people with me.
Iíll try my best.