As the City of Surrey has continued to push back the reopening date of the Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre – which has been closed for months as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – some would-be users of the facility are requesting better transparency when it come to an opening date.
For much of last year, all recreational facilities were closed, but in the fall, the city announced that a “phased” approach to opening would begin. The Surrey Sport and Leisure Centre, in Fleetwood, was the first to open. It is still the only indoor aquatic facility in operation, and the city’s various aquatic groups and recreational users have shared the busy space.
Meanwhile, the Grandview facility has seen its restart date pushed back numerous times.
“The last update we got said, ‘Hopefully sometime in February,” said Jy Lawrence, head coach of the Pacific Sea Wolves Swim Club that normally operates out of Grandview.
“We had a set date, Nov. 23, then we had another set date, Dec. 1. And then we were told January – but no (specific) date. Then we were told February, with no date,” she said.
The Sea Wolves are currently training out of the Sport and Leisure Centre, often sharing the pool with the Surrey Knights Swim Club and other organizations.
“We’re trying to put things together and trying to plan a season, but we don’t even know what our pool time is going to look like next month,” Lawrence continued.
“Even if we don’t get ideal pool times at Grandview, we’ll at least know what those times are and we can plan for the remainder of the season. Or worst-case scenario, if Grandview isn’t going to open – and they’d just tell us it isn’t going to open – then we can plan for that scenario, too… instead of this, ‘It’s gonna open, but it’s not going to open now, but it might open now, or it might open later.’
“Trying to plan for that, is very, very challenging.”
In an emailed statement to Peace Arch News this week, Laurie Cavan, Surrey’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture said the Grandview Aquatic Centre is set to reopen Feb. 9, although that date could change as it will be “informed by current (COVID-19) case numbers, trends and further updating from the Provincial Health Authorities expected on Feb. 5.”
Cavan confirmed that the decision not to reopen other facilities in late fall through January was due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.
“The phased roll out plan for the Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre will meet the needs of pool users, including public swimming, lane swimming, swim lessons, and aquatic sport teams,” the statement continued.
According to the city’s website, the South Surrey Indoor Pool does not have a proposed reopening date; it’s listed as ‘TBD’ along with the Guildford Recreation Centre and Newton Recreation Centre.
Grandview-area resident Christine Adamov, whose children are involved with local aquatics groups, said she understands why the reopening was delayed in the fall – “There was a surge of cases, so I completely understand the pause,” she said – but is still calling for better communication from the city.
“Since that pause, there’s been multiple changes to that opening timeline and it just feels like that phased approach has become a delayed approach,” she said.
“I can appreciate that there’s a lot that goes into opening these pools, but the communication has become quite (vague). I’m not alone, I know that others are asking about Grandview, and (asking) what the plan is.”
Adamov is a Fraser Health employee – “I’m observing this pandemic through multiple lenses,” she said – but wondered why, if one facility can be proven to operate safely, others can’t follow.
“We’ve seen examples of it – Surrey Sport and Leisure has been operating for three months, and other facilities, too – in Vancouver, in other cities,” she said. “Walnut Grove (Community Centre), they announced a date and then they opened on that date.”
“There is no health reason why Surrey’s facilities shouldn’t be open today,” she said in a news release at the time.
“Right now, the only reason they remain closed is to save money that is being siphoned off to pay for (Surrey Mayor) Doug McCallum’s $129-million police transition.”
Lawrence suggested such criticism is bound to run rampant until the city either re-opens its other facilities, or adequately explains why they’ll remain closed.
“Does it have to do with COVID, or does it not? You just don’t know what the real reason is, and every time you talk to somebody at the city, they only know what they’ve been told – they don’t know the whole picture, either,” she said.
Adamov called such criticism “fair comment” but reiterated a lack of communication is still her major concern.
“I think they’ve made a tremendous effort to make things safe and it’s working. That’s a big positive – I’d just like to see the same commitment to communication and to opening as there was in the beginning.
“Let us know – one way or the other.”