Steel beams and cranes are visible from the vicinity of Frame Lake as one of the city’s larger infrastructure projects is in full construction mode this spring.

Clark Builders, the company whose bid was accepted by the municipality, began construction on a $67.7 million aquatic centre in May 2022.

After years of planning, decision-making, and determining funding strategies, a city-wide public referendum was held to get approval to borrow money and proceed with the new aquatic centre, which is targetted for completion by September 2024.

Yellowknife Aquatic Centre construction is now visible from the shores of Frame Lake. The new pool facility is expected to open in September 2024. Jill Westerman/NNSL photo

The facility will replace the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool, which was constructed in 1987 and is now reaching the end of its lifespan. The old pool will be decommissioned and the building will be repurposed once the new aquatic centre is opened.

Constructing the aquatic centre is no small feat. To find out specific details about what is involved, NNSL reached out to Clark Builders with questions about the project.

A representative from Clark Builders indicated that the company was not permitted to respond directly to media — instead, responses to media questions had to be filtered through city hall.

According to information, without attribution, contained in a subsequent email sent to NNSL from city hall communications staff, the aquatic centre will have a floor area of 5,721 square metres (61,580 square feet).

Now that the foundation stage is complete, the project is in what is deemed the superstructure phase and construction of the pool tank will soon begin.

It was noted that in the design phase of the project, the depth of the pool and grade changes of the landscape were taken into consideration, as was maintaining public access to the walking trails and tennis courts.

Special consideration had to be given when choosing materials for the project as well. Because of the interior environment, plastics and stainless steel materials are being utilized winthin portions of the complex. Some of the steel will have additional galvanized coatings, and to ensure superior corrosion protection, an epoxy paint will be used throughout the indoor pool area.

Other notable features of the aquatic centre will be phenolic lockers, which will provide optimum longevity, and the exterior surfaces on the south and west elevations will have stone veneer rising from the rock and a patio that overlooks Frame Lake.

25-metre lanes

While preliminary pre-design plan discussions determined that a 52-metre lane pool was the preferred option, two design options were presented for final consideration to council during the January 2021 council meeting: 52-metres or 25-metres. Council ultimately voted for the 25-metre option.

Former Yellowknife city councillor Niels Konge, who sat on council during the years of planning and discussion about the need for a new pool, was supportive of seeing the construction project underway.

“I always supported facilities and programs that were for the youth. This was no different,” Konge stated in a recent email. “If the kids don’t have things to do, you have a dying community.”

While current city councillor Rob Warburton had no say in whether to advance the new pool proposal, he said, overall, it’s going to be “a great facility.”

“Operating costs are of concern, so we are going to have to figure out how best to address those,” Warburton said. “Some folks are concerned about the price, its fixed — the price can’t change, so thank God we had that type of contract during a large inflationary period.”

He said while he has heard some public concern or dissatisfaction because not all residents will use the facility, yet have to pay for it in through their taxes, Warburton pointed out that not every resident uses every facility in the city.

“That’s just part of a community — you are taxed for things you don’t use. In general, I am quite excited to see it going in there,” he said.

But Warburton said that residents shouldn’t expect to see any more city facilities in the foreseeable future.

“I think we are more than sufficient now in our city facility make-up. We don’t need anything else.

“After this, the projects will be more focused on water/sewer stuff, lift stations, submarine water lines, things like that. This is the biggest one we’ve done in quite a while,” he said.

While supply chain issues can be a concern for large-scale projects, it was indicated that in this instance, such possible issues were accounted for during the planning stages.

In terms of the larger equipment required for the construction, the mobile cranes, concrete pumps, telehandlers, loaders and excavators all were sourced locally.

Steve Specht, Clark Builders’ director for Northern Canada, said in an earlier email forwarded to NNSL via Yellowknife City Hall, that in terms of employment for workers, there could be up to 15 new direct hires in Yellowknife.

“Indirect employment to execute the work (shop time/manufacturing) along with crews being brought up, adding to the Yellowknife economy results in 57 people being employed to execute the work,” Specht added.

In terms of the economic benefit from such a large-scale project, Specht indicated that spinoffs from hotels, groceries, taxi, freight — in the NWT and around town — plus airfares and associated travel, should add another possible 12 jobs, based on the volume of material required and procurement.

Because Clark Builders is working under a single contract with the municipality that includes design and construction of the facility, it is up to Clark to meet the timelines and budgets, according to the city.

Fact file

The aquatic centre will contain:

-25 metre eight-lane pool

-25 metre three-lane leisure pool with beach entry

-two water slides

-splash pad

-therapy pool

-lazy river

-one-metre diving board

-three-metre diving board

-two multipurpose rooms


-lease space

-universal washroom

-two universal change rooms

-customer service counter

-aquatic centre staffing on main floor

-bleacher seating for 200

-six staff offices for C/S

-storage for C/S and youth groups

Source: City of Yellowknife

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