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The Ruttle Report - After bad news, how do we pivot?

The swimming pool in Outlook is a no-go for this year. So, what now?
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What's your earliest swimming memory?

For me, and this should come as a surprise to absolutely no one reading this, it's submerging my body into the cool waters of Candle Lake at a very young age. The lake was very much my intro into the kind of fun you can have with water, and the memories that I made with my brothers and parents over the years are ones that'll carry with me for the rest of my life.

I can imagine that's what it's like for many people in Outlook and the surrounding area when it comes to the aquatic facilities in the riverside community.

I only have to bring up the words 'park pool' and I'm sure that alone conjures up many memories from over the years. The old swimming pool that used to run in the Outlook & District Regional Park was a great feature in the community, with a standout spot nestled into the ground and overlooking the South Saskatchewan River. I myself can remember enjoying the pool a few times when I was in high school, and as I got older, I understood the connection that it had with families and other residents of the community.

Then things started to take a turn for the worse with the old girl. The pool was starting to shift westward as the ground it was surrounded by was giving away. By 2010, after TSN hosted a special live edition of SportsCentre from the Outlook park and thousands of dollars were earmarked towards the pool for upgrades, it soon became apparent that everyone was looking at the pool's 'final curtain'.

So then, questions started to mount. Do we build a new pool? Where do we put it, back in the park or actually in town? What are the costs? Who do we look to build it? How much money are we talking here? Where are those dollars going to come from?

I can tell you, as the journalist who's been covering all the goings-on in Outlook and the surrounding area for 17 years, I've been there from Day One when it comes to this particular tale.

Whether it was watching the pool enjoy its last few summers of usage, or attending meeting after meeting after meeting after meeting after meeting where questions were asked and opinions voiced on what it would take to build a new swimming pool in Outlook, I was there.

Or when a group of dedicated volunteers selected to oversee such a project ventured over to Foam Lake one warm July day to check out the aquatic facility that the community had just opened. I was there.

Or whenever a pool fundraising event was held in Outlook that needed some exposure to help keep the project's story in the eyes and minds of the public. I was there.

Or when the late Cor Van Raay, an area and Alberta producer, gifted the fundraising committee with half a million dollars and earned the naming rights of the new pool. I was there.

Or when the proverbial shovels went into the ground in the summer of 2017. I was there.

Or when Rick Pederson offered to give me a walkthrough of the entire facility in 2018, which gave me a full view of what was to come in the summer of 2019 and what people were set to enjoy. Yup, pretty sure I was there.

Or when members of the pool fundraising committee got together for a special photo opp in 2020 to recognize their incredible multi-year efforts in seeing this project through to the end. Mmhmm, I was there too.

Opened in the summer of 2019, the Van Raay and Community Swimming Pool, located right beside the Jim Kook Rec Plex, has been a steadily busy, increasingly popular facility with swimmers of all ages. Sure, I've heard the odd comment over the years that it's too bad such a facility wasn't still in the park, but I've also heard comments that people are glad that the pool is now actually IN town, so I guess it's been kind of a mixed bag in that regard.

And then, last week happened.


A bizarre incident back in January saw the furnace quit working - just after a sight check was done, mind you, - and of course, being rural Saskatchewan in the wintertime, this led to the pipes becoming frozen and then bursting open, causing a flood of water to come rushing out. This went unnoticed for more than a full day, and when the damage was finally assessed, things definitely weren't pretty.

And of course, the timing couldn't have been any worse. Such an incident couldn't have happened anytime in October, November, or even December, when this area wasn't seeing any snow and we were all enjoying average temperatures of +5. No no no! This incident just HAD to happen in late January when Saskatchewan remembered, "Oh right, it's supposed to be WINTER!" and froze everything up.

In my talk with Town CAO Kevin Trew, he told me the pool's liner was going to be the deciding factor on if the facility could theoretically still open in 2024. But nope, it was found to be stretched and pulled in all manner of directions, and it being a custom-work job worth around $350,000, things didn't look good for this year.

Of course, one of my first questions for the Town was how this would impact anyone financially, and I think the collective community relaxed a bit when it was revealed that everything is insured and covered, minus a $5K deductible.

Still, the reality of the situation just plain sucks - Outlook won't have a swimming pool in 2024.

It's crazy when I remember back to 2020, when Outlook was the ONLY local pool operating that year even during the Covid pandemic. Rosetown, Kenaston and Davidson, they were all out for that year.

This year, THEY'RE the ones who are open and Outlook's on the shelf.

It'll be interesting to see how people pivot in this situation. Does the South Saskatchewan River become even more of a hotbed of activity? Or Gardiner Dam and Lake Diefenbaker? Do those neighboring local pools see their numbers rise up exponentially with Outlook swimmers?

So, swimmers, how are YOU going to pivot?

For this week, that's been the Ruttle Report.