Following is a letter that was prepared by the primary users of the Jeno Tihanyi Olympic Gold Pool, outlining their concerns over the current plans to shutter this facility for the foreseable future.
Given that it appears extremely unlikely that Laurentian University will reverse course and decide to open the pool to swimmers this fall, the hopes of these groups lie in the possibility that the facility could be operated by the City of Greater Sudbury for at least a year.
Admittedly, the option existed to interview some or all of those who penned this letter - but to be perfectly honest, they did such a nice job in outlining their position, it was felt that reader interest could best be served by simply running the letter intact, with perhaps a few minor editorial additions.
The letter, which was signed by Dean Henze (Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club - head coach), Phil Parker (Laurentian Masters Swimming - head coach) and Courtney Stasiuk (Sudbury Synchro Swimming Club - head coach) reads as follows:
It has been 16 months since all of our athletes have been able to access the Jeno Tihanyi Olympic Gold Pool and its other facilities in the Ben Avery Complex at Laurentian University.
It is important to note that the swimming pool was used up until the last day (March 10th) before the March 2020 COVID-19 shutdown. On December 14, Marie Josee Berger (provost - Laurentian University) sent an email to the university community saying that the university estimates repairs to the Ben Avery and the pool will cost $10 million.
We believe that this information is inaccurate. The pool was functional in March. Indeed, an important valve had been replaced and the pool was functioning well. As you may be aware, the pool continues to be full of water which is being filtered and heated at a significant cost - and no funds are coming in from users to help cover the costs. The pool is ready to receive athletes of all abilities, once Public Health Sudbury is notified and a 14-day notice is given. The current cost to maintain the facility without use is upwards of ten thousand dollars per month.
Pool value: The value of the facility cannot be understated. The Jeno Tihanyi Olympic Gold Pool is the only 50-metre pool between Greater Toronto and Thunder Bay. It also has the depth and size to accommodate specialized training such as diving and rescue certifications and synchronized swimming programs. The pool represents 45 per cent of the available lane-space in Sudbury. It represents 100 per cent of the 50 metre lane space in central and Northeastern and Central Ontario. Double Olympic gold medallist Alex Baumann trained and competed in this pool under Coach Tihanyi. Alex received his undergraduate degree from Laurentian and holds an honorary doctorate from the university.
What’s at stake: The consequences of the closure of the pool cannot be overstated. The Sudbury Synchro Swim Club has no facility in which to train. After two seasons of COVID-19 closures, it cannot survive without Jeno Tihanyi Olympic Gold Pool. A group of 70-plus dedicated masters swimmers are without daily physical activity in a proper training facility.
Finally, Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club, which was established in the 1970s - and has grown from 12 to 80 athletes - is fearful of its future without a 50-metre facility. The ricochet of this closure can be felt by every swim club north of the GTA including Orangeville, Barrie, Orillia, Owen Sound, Muskoka, North Bay, Temiskaming Shores, Kirkland Lake, Hearst, Cochrane, Timmins, Iroquois Falls and Sault Ste Marie. They all attend competitions in Sudbury several times every year. Other casualties include the Special Olympics and SWAM which aims to educate and teach swimming lessons.
The health benefits of the Jeno Tihanyi pool are evident and obvious. The economic benefits are immense. Competitions draw athletes and their families to Sudbury from across southern and northern Ontario. These groups rent hotel rooms, dine in restaurants, shop in our stores and visit our attractions. Many out-of-town teams also rent large numbers of available rooms in Laurentian residences. Typically five of these regional events are hosted in one given year.Here is the revenue generated after one weekend or two-day swim meet:
• Meet Fees = $100
• Hotel room (2 nights) = $300
• Meals = $200
• Shopping/Attractions = $100
• Fuel = $50
Total = $750 per weekend / per family
Average = 100 families per event = $75,000
(* utilizing the Sport Tourism Economic Assessment Model (STEAM) developed and endorsed by Sport Tourism Canada, the economic impact of the traditional weekend meets hosted at the Jeno Tihanyi Gold Pool is estimated to exceed a half million dollars)
Likewise in synchronized swimming, regional competitions average around 200-250 athletes and coaches. These competitions can run four days with athletes coming from Eastern and Northern Ontario. Competitions include an average of 25-30 officials and staff as well as at least 100 family members. Provincial competitions would bring approximately 650 athletes, 55 officials and staff and hundreds of family members.
The pool is a casualty of Laurentian’s insolvency and the COVID-19 pandemic . Its continued closure is unnecessary. We firmly believe the university, Sudbury City Council, the province of Ontario and Government of Canada have overlooked the pool’s value and usefulness. The pool is being under-utilized and all of us would like to help put it back into operation. Working together, the pool could become an asset and not a liability. We recognize the restructuring process takes time but we have already given up two seasons worth of training time. We know the pool is fine for swimming.
We, the undersigned, need help to support this facility and all that it has to offer Sudburians and the rest of Ontario physically and financially. We cannot do it alone.