Saskatoon city council approves $6M budget increase for scaled-down pool facility upgrades

Stalled upgrades to an aging pool facility in Saskatoon's core will finally go ahead.

The nearly 50-year-old Harry Bailey Aquatic Centre, which includes indoor pools for competition and leisure, has been closed since April 2023.

On Wednesday, city council approved a budget increase of about $6 million, bringing the total project budget to around $30 million.

The project was retendered in April after the initial tender last year came in at more than twice the available construction budget. City administration said this is the lowest price to get the essential work done.

But some initial plans have been done away with. The 50-metre pool won't be completely replaced. Instead, the new budget calls for a "patch and repair strategy." There also won't be new, enlarged fitness facilities.

Ward 2 Coun. Hilary Gough said she is dismayed the planned expansion had to be scaled down so much.

"The scope of work change here is really disappointing, to be quite frank," Gough said at Wednesday's city council meeting.

"And I actually don't think the scope of work that was originally envisioned or that is laid out here was even fully understood by the community."

LISTEN | From July 2023: Closure of Harry Bailey Aquatic Centre 'heartbreaking':

Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said the facility is "beloved" and thanked the people of the city for their patience.

"And we would certainly much rather be building a larger facility for less money or the full scope of what was there," Clark said.

"This isn't ideal to have to scale back but also find more money. It certainly shows the challenges of inflation and how they're hitting our city in a real way."

The city said the aquatic centre serves a critical recreation function in Saskatoon's core, but it had the highest energy use intensity of all city recreation facilities before its closing last year.

Renovations that will go ahead under the revised budget include energy performance improvements, pool basin leak repair, pool mechanical and building mechanical updates, roof improvements, washroom and change room redesign, and security and safety enhancements.

According to a report to city council from administration, the work will begin next week.

The aquatic centre is scheduled to reopen in the late spring of 2026.