Vancouver mayor promises Kitsilano pool will open Aug. 7

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim says repairs to the city's flagship outdoor pool will allow it to open this summer after officials previously said it was not possible.

From a drained Kits pool, as construction workers toiled in the background, Sim told reporters that, barring any unforeseen obstacle over the next month, the pool would reopen Aug. 7.

"That's right, we are going to be back," he said.

Kitsilano pool, at 137-metres long, began operating over 50 years ago. Wear and tear from its proximity to the ocean and aging infrastructure has brought it to the end of its life.

Last year officials said it was leaking 30-thousand litres of water an hour. In June it was announced the beachside landmark pool continued to leak and would not be opened in 2024.

On Friday, Sim said despite the grim outlook, the city wasn't giving up on the pool.

"We have a no quit, can do attitude so we're not going to take no for an answer," he said.

Kitsilano Pool will not be opening in 2024 due to ongoing repairs.
An overhead view of Kitsilano Pool which historically has, on average, 150,000 visits per year. (Submitted by the Vancouver Park Board)

Sim explained what appears to be another instance from his playbook of solving capital funding problems to fix issues: bringing in outside help and donations.

"When we found out that the pool was going to be closed for the summer, Vancouverites reached out in droves and they offered their support, not just from a technical perspective but financial support and rallying individuals and looking at things differently."

The city accepted pro-bono help from a construction company called Scott Construction and advice from a mining engineer named Jeff Stibbard, who also was involved in reviving the Stanley Park Train in November 2023 after two years offline.

A freedom of information request posted on the city's website said Stibbard "provided strategic technical insight and played a leadership role in securing the philanthropic support from the community," in helping with the train. It was able to resume, in part, with $500,000 in cash donations.

"Jeff stepped up, like he did during the Stanley Park Train challenges that we had and he helped our team have a different perspective as well," said Sim "Without Jeff it wouldn't have happened."

Sim and other officials did not pinpoint what exactly the outside help was able to uncover at Kitsilano pool that would allow it to open this summer, nearly a year sooner than expected.

Workers at Kits pool in Vancouver do repairs on Friday July 5, 2024.
Workers at Kitsilano pool in Vancouver are pictured doing repairs on July 5, 2024. (Chad Pawson/CBC News)

Steve Kellock, director of recreation for the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation said the board asked the City for $5 million in funding to devise a plan to replace the pool and, in the meantime, carry out necessary repairs which would extend the life of the pool by two years.

Elected park board chair Brennan Bastyovanszky stood with Sim for the pool announcement Friday despite being at odds with the mayor after he announced plans in December to eliminate the board and transfer its oversight to council instead.

Bastyovanszky said the repair plan, as he understood it before Friday's announcement, included digging up ground at the pool, replacing pipes, replacing concrete and installing a new pool liner.

He said it may be "premature" to say the pool is going to open on a certain date, but was encouraged that the city, which is responsible for the maintenance of the pool and funding park board initiatives, had made Kits pool a priority.

"We're thrilled that the city is finally putting money behind a park board initiative that it's been advocating for for over 10 years now," said Bastyovanszky. "The deferred maintenance on assets like this is one of the reasons it's in decay."

Friday's announcement came nine days after Sim and Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung passed a motion to "affirm the value of the iconic pool by committing to an urgent process to reimagine and replace the pool as a priority action."