A rather mundane announcement over the public address system at the recent Western Ontario Swimming Association competition at the downtown natatorium said about all there is about Windsor being the province’s swimming mecca. It is simply not going happen.
Spectators were told about the problem of scratches; swimmers who don’t show up. A source told The Square the reason for the no shows is most likely distance.
Windsor is simply too far away to cause some swimmers to go out of their way to compete, even though the western region only reaches as far east as Burlington. How could this happen?
Windsor had, at one time, hitched its sports tourism dreams to an imported, Italian stainless steel pool plunked down in an area of the city once slated for an arena and then an urban village. It was a bad move which could have been adverted had City Council, never known to do due diligence, had taken the time to understand the swimming industry.
After the failure of the costly FINA event in December, to fill the arena’s seats, its manager reconfirmed his view of swimming not being a spectator sport. Now, Windsor taxpayers are saddled with paying for a money losing facility with little hope of delivering the promised riches.
But what to do? The answers are many.
One of the best is by downtown councilor Rino Bortolin. As reported by the Windsor Star on December 31 last year, it is to drain the waterpark and, “… exchange the water slides for zip lines and rock-climbing walls, he says, and Windsor taxpayers could save millions – and parents and their kids could have a fun and more affordable place to hang out.”
That would take care of the money pit waterpark, but what about the natatorium? What can save it?
Probably the best idea is to pack up the pool and give it to the university, which plans to put an Olympic pool in during the renovation of St Denis Centre. Problem almost solved.
The resulting empty pool space could easily be filled with a pickleball court. As CTV News reported two weeks ago, from a pickleball contest involving local politicians, the sport is the nation’s fastest growing. Already, said the broadcaster, there are a thousand players locally.
Racquet sport Pickleball combines the skills of badminton, tennis, and table tennis and there can be as many as four players. Right now the city is in a pickle because of the recurring expense of operating the aquatics centre. This idea could turn a pickle into a pickleball court.
With so many enthusiasts, the court could probably be open seven days a week and, with that many players and fans, its impact on the downtown’s economy would be sustainable; not a few fits and starts a few times a year as we witness with swimming.
As for local recreational and therapy swimmers who are shut out of the pool when a meet is held, the city could put the water back in at WaterWorld and let it carry on its mission of public service. It would be a win-win no loss situation.