OP/ED: GFRec needs more flexible pool rates
I want to start this op/ed piece by stressing that as far as I know, the recreation board has not raised their rates at this time. I don’t know if they are going to in the future. Regardless, I feel the recreation facilities need to be more affordable for everyone.
Late last year there was some talk about the RDKB increasing their drop-in rates to the swimming pool.
It alarms me that the regional district feels this is the solution to bringing more revenue to the aquatic centre. I have lived in many parts of Western Canada and as far as I can remember, this is the only place that does not have annual swimming rates. This, I think, is the key to getting more revenue to the aquatic centre.
Let’s look at some numbers from other recreation centres in BC.
I lived in Nanaimo when my oldest daughter was just a tot. The rates there were fantastic. Not only did they have the toonie swims, but individuals and families could commit to a year. While paying a lump sum upfront isn’t always feasible, the annual fees were broken down into monthly installments.
For a family pass this would cost just over $80 a month. What did the users get for this fee? Unlimited access to public swims at both expansive aquatic centres (wave pool, kids’ aquatic structures, warm kiddie pools, rafting loop, large lane pool, etc.). Not only that but your whole family could use the public skating, weight rooms, saunas, steam room, hot tub, drop in gym, etc. during public hours.
In Surrey, it’s the same. A one-year family pass is $848.50 a year, which works out to about $70 a month before taxes. That’s for all their sports and aquatic centres, and Surrey is not short on pools or sporting facilities.
There’s not much different in Vancouver. They have Flexipasses, which offer unlimited access to public swim and sporting facilities that participate in the program. They don’t have a family pass, but the adult, individual pass breaks down to $30 a month. In Grand Forks an adult monthly pass is $65. Even H20 in Kelowna offers an adult, monthly pass for about $50 to their massive facility.
Apples and oranges you say? Grand Forks doesn’t have the same resources, population or facilities … they can’t be compared to those large cities.
Ok, let’s look somewhere smaller – Nelson. The population is still larger than ours, but even so, a family pass to their recreation facilities works out to $76 a month before taxes.
Sparwood, is very similar to our little town. Their annual pass is $800 for a family or a whopping $67 a month. Incidentally, their drop in rates are $5.50 for an adult and $11 for a family. At GFRec you are looking at $6.25 for an adult and $14 for a family. How are raising the rates going to make it more accessible?
Let’s zip on over to Hope and find out what we would pay if we lived there. They charge $5 for an adult drop in, $9 for a family drop in and $807.50 for a one-year family pass – about $67 a month.
I’m not complaining about our facilities and the staff are usually really enjoyable and attentive. Many of them know most of the children by name. My kids really enjoy the pool, but they’d love to go more often, not just on toonie night. Same thing for skating.
I really hope that the RDKB recreation board thinks about different options that will get people using the facilities. More bodies equals more revenue. The annual memberships are a great way to get people active and to make a commitment to use the rec. facilities for the coming year.
I’d happily make a one-year commitment if we could pop by the pool/arena/gym whenever we wanted for $60 to $70 a month. At the current rate, I’d only have to go five times a month to get my moneys worth.
GFRec does have a subsidy program for low-income families and individuals. However, when I asked about it as a curious user, the staff didn’t know much about it. They referred me to the RDKB. I sent them an email but never received a reply.
From what I can tell, the subsidy program is for low-income individuals and the pool rates are for those that can drop $7 to $14 whenever they feel the need for a dip. Everyone else needs to hold out for toonie swims, scheduled swim classes and special celebrations.
What would get you and your family using the local recreation facilities more often? Let your voice be heard in the comments below.