Ottawa and Quebec help revive Laval’s on again/off again Aquatics Complex project

Federal and provincial governments donate $20 million for $61.1 million undertaking

The City of Laval’s on again/off again aquatics complex project, an initiative that was mothballed three years ago after cost bids came in too steep, was dramatically revived last week with the announcement that Ottawa and Quebec will be contributing a combined $20 million to get the $61.1 million project back on track.

Quebec Premier, François Legault and federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna were among the high-ranking elected officials on hand to announce $20 million in financial assistance to help build the future project, located on a tract of land on Terry Fox Ave. in downtown Laval next to the Cosmodôme.

Ottawa/Quebec investment

Under terms of a Canada/Quebec agreement, the federal government is investing $10 million under its Community Cultural and Recreational Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, while Quebec is also investing $10 million under its Recreational and Sports Infrastructure Financial Assistance Program.

The City of Laval launched the architectural competition for the aquatic complex in 2016, after years of speculation on what Laval’s next big project would be after the construction of the Place Bell multipurpose arena. When finally announced in January 2017, the cost of the aquatic complex was pegged at $61.1 million and the city hoped to complete it by 2020.

Postponed after high bids

However, in 2018 the city’s executive-committee announced that a call for tenders for the construction of the superstructure, building envelope and other aspects of the building were cancelled because the lowest of three bids came in 46 per cent higher than the city budgeted.

At that time, measures were taken to protect the foundations which were already in place in view of the approaching winter season. Laval city council spent more than $710,000 to pay for the application of a waterproofing membrane on the concrete. The city said this waterproofing work would have been necessary anyway as part of the regular construction process.

Another delay last year

By February 2020 when it had long become apparent the aquatics complex project was still far from getting underway, the city announced yet another delay: the cancellation of the contract with the architectural firm that was mandated to produce the initial plans.

‘I am proud to participate in this project, which will improve accessibility to quality sports facilities for families in Laval,’ said Premier François Legault

According to the city, the contract with the architectural and design consortium was cancelled because of what the city referred to as “the impossibility of the consortium to respect its contractual obligations.”

Of course, that was then. With the city’s renewed vision, the new indoor aquatic complex will include three swimming pools, technical facilities, meeting spaces, utility areas (change rooms, washrooms, etc.), circulation spaces and other recreational areas (multipurpose rooms).

Legault all for sports

“I am proud to participate in this project, which will improve accessibility to quality sports facilities for families in Laval,” said Premier Legault. “Sport is good for your health and good for your morale. It is also a way for our young people to motivate themselves, to dream. We empower our youth and athletes to be active and play the sport they love.”

“Today’s announcement perfectly illustrates our vision for our community: modern, high-quality local services,” said Mayor Marc Demers. “The citizens and organizations of Laval have long demanded a quality infrastructure to bathe and train our athletes. I sincerely thank the governments of Justin Trudeau and François Legault for their invaluable support in carrying out this project dear to Laval residents.”

Time for recovery: McKenna

“The pandemic has made us realize how important recreational and sports facilities are to staying active and being in contact with one another,” said Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna. “Since it is a time for recovery, this is an opportune moment to invest in infrastructure that encourages physical activity and makes us more resilient in the long term.”

“I am thrilled about this $20 million in federal-provincial funding, which will provide Laval residents with a high-tech sports facility, contribute to quality of life and enhance the city’s reputation,” said Annie Koutrakis, MP for Vimy. “Who knows how many future athletes will take their first dive or swim their first laps at the complex, to one day represent us proudly at the national or international level?”

Opposition reaction

The official opposition at Laval city hall, the Parti Laval, issued a statement last week about these latest developments in the saga of the aquatic complex.

The foundations for the future Laval Aquatics Complex have stood idle since the city postponed or cancelled development because of skyrocketing costs and other issues.

“We are always happy to know that the government is ready to invest in projects that are expected by the Laval population and that meet their needs,” said Parti Laval leader Michel Trottier. “Unfortunately, this is not the case here. The aquatic complex is a bottomless pit that has been stagnating for five years, it is not the government’s cheque that will change anything.

Comes too late, says Trottier

“The financial assistance from the Quebec and Canadian governments comes too late,” he continued. “If the Demers-Boyer administration had done its homework, we would have asked for this amount and obtained it more than 5 years ago.

“It is not when everything is going wrong, when the ship is sinking, that we should cry for help. Even worse, the Demers-Boyer team does not learn from its mistakes.

By putting all its eggs in one basket, it is once again depriving the Laval population of infrastructure projects that could have been built in the neighbourhoods.”