Price tag for Laval’s Aquatic Complex project rises to $125 million

Boyer ‘would rather double the budget than admit failure,’ says Action Laval

Recent word that the cost of Laval’s planned aquatic complex will be at least $50 million higher than the initially-estimated $75 million cost has provided opposition members of Laval City Council with ammunition to accuse the Boyer administration of reckless spending and mismanagement.

Last week, the City of Laval’s executive-committee announced it is recommending that city council vote in favour of adding the $50 million.

‘Important project,’ says Boyer

“Through this, Laval is giving itself the means to bring forth one of the most important infrastructure projects on its territory, while approaching its goal of offering to all residents high-quality sports equipment for leisure, learning and excellence,” the city said in a statement.

“To be able to offer more sports infrastructures is a priority for our administration,” said Mayor Stéphane Boyer. “I am pleased to be finally be able to offer to the people of Laval these installations which will be completely accessible and recreational.

Despite the rising price tag, which is now at $125 million, the City of Laval says the aquatic complex project will pay off in economic spinoffs for the region and a better quality of life for residents.

More swimming time

“This project, anticipated for several years now, will increase considerably the availability of swimming hours and swimming lessons offered to the population, in addition to allowing our athletes from the region to train there.”

According to the city, the $50 million additional sum for the project will become official with the passing of a new by-law. The aquatic complex project will also be the subject of a public consultation by the city in the coming weeks.

Positive impacts, says city

Despite the cost increase, the city maintains that the aquatic complex will have positive impacts on different levels, including lifting Laval’s status internationally, generating short and longer term economic benefits, and encouraging physical activity by Laval’s population.

Despite the extra cost, Laval’s property tax payers won’t be on the hook for the entire amount. While the federal government has agreed to provide $10 million through its cultural and recreational community infrastructure program, the provincial government is providing another $10 million through a similar program.

Some basic facts on the Aquatic Complex project:

  • The project includes three swimming pools (one recreational, another of 50 metres and a diving basis with a 10-metre diving tower. There will also be a multifunctional training studio and a physical fitness workout room.
  • The Aquatic Complex is expected to host important national and provincial swim competitions.
  • It is expected to accommodate 875 swimmers and 500 spectators.
  • The sports expected to be practiced at the aquatic complex will include swimming, synchronized swimming, le water polo, diving, aquatic exercise, life-saving training and free swim events.
  • It is expected to contribute to the overall development of athletics in various sports in the Laval region.
  • It will be located near the Cosmodôme and Autoroute 15 for easy access.

Opposition reacts

At Action Laval, two members of the opposition party reacted strongly to the news of the Aquatic Complex’s added $50 million cost. “This has been a complete fiasco and a failure of management from the beginning,” Action Laval said in a statement, while adding, “Mayor Boyer would rather double the budget than admit failure.”

In addition, party leaders pointed out that the complex won’t be serving for the closing games of the upcoming Jeux du Québec, as had been planned in the beginning.

Action Laval is calling the Aquatic Complex project the “poisoned gift bequeathed by former Mayor Demers to the citizens of Laval,”

Disastrous waste, says Cifelli

« My colleagues and I are flabbergasted with the announcement,” said Val-des-Arbres city councillor Archie Cifelli. “At a time when Laval is lacking in sports and cultural infrastructures, this wastage is disastrous.”

Action Laval is calling the aquatic complex project the “poisoned gift bequeathed by former Mayor Demers to the citizens of Laval,” while maintaining that no original major project was delivered by the Demers team during the eight years they were in power.

No mega-budgets, says Piché

“If it had been us dealing with the money of taxpayers, we would have built at least two interior public pools, one in the east and another in the west,” said Saint-François city councillor Isabelle Piché. “Our citizens want services and infrastructures in their neighborhoods, not projects with mega-budgets that they will never use anyway.”

Noting that the City of Laval’s population will soon reach 450,000 inhabitants, Action Laval said the city is gaining a reputation that its sports facilities and other infrastructures are old, worn out and no longer up to the challenges of a large municipality.

The backstory on Laval’s Aquatics Complex project

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.

The foundations for Laval’s future Aquatic Complex are already in place on a site next to the Cosmodôme in central Laval. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

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. The recently-announced cost increase is the latest development in this ongoing saga.