Two Alberta legislature pools to re-open on Canada Day

Nathan Cooper, speaker of the legislative assembly of Alberta, wades into a newly constructed reflecting pool outside the building on June 26, 2024. Two reconstructed pools are slated to open July 1, 2024.  (Submitted by the Alberta legislative assembly office. - image credit)
Nathan Cooper, speaker of the legislative assembly of Alberta, wades into a newly constructed reflecting pool outside the building on June 26, 2024. Two reconstructed pools are slated to open July 1, 2024. (Submitted by the Alberta legislative assembly office. - image credit)

The wait is almost over for anyone who has yearned to paddle or splash around in a pool outside the Alberta legislature.

More than four years after leaking pipes and crumbling concrete prompted the government's infrastructure department to turn off the taps, two of the three fountains have been restored and will open July 1.

"The upgrades of the Alberta legislature grounds continue the legacy of being a place for Albertans and visitors to gather, to build community and to look to the future of our province," Speaker Nathan Cooper said at a news conference Wednesday on a plaza overlooking the fountains.

Speaker Nathan Cooper recounts some of the history of the Alberta legislature grounds.
Speaker Nathan Cooper recounts some of the history of the Alberta legislature grounds.

Speaker Nathan Cooper recounts some of the history of the Alberta legislature grounds. (Arouna Sissoko/Radio-Canada)

Initially built in the 1970s, the three pools have been shut down since 2020, when persistent problems with leaking water lines and deteriorating concrete became unmanageable.

As of Canada Day, a reconstructed reflecting pool and dome fountain pool will re-open for public access. The problems with those pools began in 2016.

Cooper said the fountain was designed to mimic the dome atop of the legislature building.

"Seeing it through the window brightens my day on even the longest of speaker days," he said.

Construction continues on a final water feature on the north segment of the grounds.

In 2018, a concrete wading pool there began crumbling, exposing rebar. Last year, Alberta Infrastructure presented three possible designs for a replacement water feature for the public to vote on.

Infrastructure Minister Pete Guthrie said Wednesday that construction on a new spray park with a river feature running through it will continue until fall 2024. It should be ready for splashing around by summer 2025.

The revamp is a $20-million project, $8 million of which comes from the federal government and $12 million is provincial funding.

Demolition began on the pools in March 2023. A sprawling 150-metre by 50-metre structure covered much of the area throughout the winter to allow construction to continue during inclement weather.

Guthrie said workers poured about 2,690 cubic metres of concrete for the project and used about 181 tonnes of rebar.

Construction is ongoing at the north end of the legislature ground where the government is installing a new spray park. The feature will replace a concrete multi-level wading pool that was built in the 1970s. The restored dome fountain and reflecting pool are visible closer to the legislature building.
Construction is ongoing at the north end of the legislature ground where the government is installing a new spray park. The feature will replace a concrete multi-level wading pool that was built in the 1970s. The restored dome fountain and reflecting pool are visible closer to the legislature building.

Construction is ongoing at the north end of the legislature ground where the government is installing a new spray park. The feature will replace a concrete multi-level wading pool that was built in the 1970s. The restored dome fountain and reflecting pool are visible closer to the legislature building. (Janet French/CBC)

Guthrie, the MLA for Airdrie-Cochrane, said when he was first elected as an MLA in 2019, he was pleasantly surprised to see how many people used the legislature grounds and fountains as a gathering place.

"We've really done our best here to ensure that this is a spot for people to connect and catch up and to have a little fun in our capital city," he said.

The new pools had to meet updated standards, including using treated water, Guthrie said. The reflecting pool is also now shallower than it was — the previously knee-high water is now 15 centimetres deep.

Guthrie said a pool any deeper would have required the government to hire lifeguards around the clock.

He said he wanted the pools to be ready for Canada Day celebrations at the legislature. The festivities are from noon to 5 p.m. on July 1 and include music and cultural performances, storytelling, circus performers, food trucks, and is the only day the legislative chambers are open for public access.

Caitlin Sherban, who has three young children, is happy to see the fountains return to use.

"We're always down here every year for Canada Day," she said. "We love spending time down here with the kids doing any kind of swimming, and the food trucks."