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Councillor launching last-ditch effort to save inner-city fitness centres

Last Updated Nov 27, 2019 at 5:00 pm MST

The pool inside the Beltline Aquatic and Fitness Centre is seen here after renovations in 2018. (PHOTO: City of Calgary)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — A Calgary councillor wants to do everything he can to prevent two casualties of the budget crunch faced by the city.

The Beltline Fitness Centre and Inglewood Pool are set to close down on Dec. 31, due to low attendance and rising costs.

The city estimates it will save them about $800,000 a year if the facilities are closed down, though also it will still cost $400,000 to maintain the buildings even if they’re not open to the public.

“Which sounds crazy expensive to me,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said on Nov. 5.

But with budget week coming to a close, Ward 11 Councillor Jeromy Farkas thinks they can take a multi-pronged approach to keep them open for inner-city residents.

“We need to find ways to increase the number of visits through the door,” Farkas said.

The councillor said he has support from other area representatives to look into three things: increasing marketing, adjusting hours of operation and introducing a slight increase to admission rates.

On the first factor, Farkas believes one issue is many people living in the Beltline or Inglewood simply forget these facilities exist.

“There’s a lot of people who live in the area that have no idea that there’s a pool and a fitness facility there. First thing is going to be building he awareness of it.”

By adjusting some of the hours, Farkas said this might mean there is a reduction in the time the facilities are open, but it’s better than them closing down altogether.

Finally, since the centres are much more affordable than other locations such as Repsol Centre, he believes they can increase the rates slightly.

“What we’ve heard from our residents is that they’re willing to accept somewhat of an increase as long as it remains competitive with other facilities.”

One other piece of the puzzle, looking more long term, is getting community partners to help out by managing some of the services in the locations to further reduce any strain on the city.

“Just buying a little bit more time in terms of seeing what the number of uses could be, and then ideally in my mind moving to a model where it’s a third party that’s delivering the services — not necessarily the city,” Farkas added.

During the first day of budget discussions on Monday, several people told council how closing the Beltline Fitness Centre would impact their lives, including removing a convenient and affordable place for their children to spend time and get physical activity.