The City of Victoria has been awarded a $1-million grant from Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities to help make the new Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre more accessible to those living with disabilities.
“This is wonderful news as we are building the new facility to be truly inclusive and to increase access to recreation and wellness activities for residents of all abilities,” said Mayor Lisa Helps in a statement.
The new inclusive facility is projected to result in a 35-per-cent increase in visitation over the existing Crystal Pool, due to its increased size and accessibility options.
Thomas Soulliere, director of parks, recreation and facilities, said he’s very excited about the options the funding will help accommodate.
“We walked them through some of the features, including access to the pool tank; all of the pools will be accessible to individuals with mobility challenges,” he said. “It could be lifts, or ramps in other locations, and we’ve got a new feature we’re exploring called a transfer bench for those who still have upper body mobility.”
Other features will include adaptive exercise equipment in the fitness centre, pool space, and dry space areas.
“The features of the building are designed to make sure it’s easy to navigate, whether you have a mobility challenge, or other disabilities,” Soulliere said.
The Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities’ Play Finds A Way movement has committed to raising $50 million towards removing accessibility barriers in Canada, and in this year’s pool of over 200 applicants, three facilities were awarded $1-million grants. Others included the Living City Foundation for the Bolton Camp in Caledon, Ont., and Grandview Children’s Foundation in Ajax, Ont.
The $1 million dollar grant comes at a time when the City of Victoria is facing a deadline crunch for the Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre.
By the start of July, only 23 per cent of funding for the budgeted $69.4-million project had been secured, with the City looking to cover up to 72 per cent of the budget through a federal-provincial grant program called Investing in Canada. While it was originally anticipated that the grant would be secured by the end of 2018, it now appears funding decisions won’t be finalized until the middle of 2019.
That delay could potentially cost the City its $6 million Gas Tax Fund grant, which was awarded last February with a caveat that all other project funds would be in place by March 31, 2019.
While other options are being explored in the meantime, Soulliere said the $1-million Jumpstart grant is a vital piece in bringing the plans together.
“This partnership is meaningful for us; a million is a substantial investment,” he said. “They had a very high level of interest and we’re very excited to have been selected.”