ANTIGONISH: Officials with StFX University announced they have made the difficult decision to delay the re-opening of the Alumni Aquatic Centre due to factors related to COVID-19, until September 2021.

The university’s difficult decision came as a result of two factors; to ensure the safety of their students and pool-users, as well as addressing an annual financial deficit.

“First and foremost is safety, both for students and for the public,” Andrew Beckett said, vice-president, finance and administration told The Reporter. “We certainly understand the value that the community places on a facility like that, when we looked at all the factors to be considered, we couldn’t justify it at this point.”

While the university has introduced their own robust COVID-19 health and safety protocols, and have only re-opened the campus to the general public on a limited basis, Beckett suggested the additional requirements to safely operate the aquatic centre during the pandemic present challenges they are not able to fulfill.

“The washroom setup and the locker room/change room areas to the pool just didn’t allow for proper physical distancing or for monitoring it properly,” Beckett said. “So we didn’t want to proceed on that basis.”

Making the decision across the board with university facilities, he explained they’ve restricted all of their facility use for mostly student-use in this point in time.

Beckett explained this decision was not taken lightly, and they recognize it’s disappointing not just for StFX but for the numerous individuals and groups who use the Alumni Aquatic Centre on a regular basis.

He acknowledged the considerable impact the closure will have on the surrounding communities, as it’s a highly public-used with things like swim programs, and a number of organized activities.

“As the facility is a key piece of community infrastructure, we share in this disappointment and regret the circumstances that prompted this difficult decision,” Beckett said.

Given the university’s substantial financial losses related to COVID-19, he indicated StFX is simply not in a position to operate the facility at this time.

“The second factor is the cost – it’s an expensive operation to run. We’re already running quite a significant deficit for the year, [we] couldn’t justify the added cost when we’re looking to save money wherever we could,” Beckett said. “Typically on an annual basis the pool would run a deficit of $500,000 a year.”

The need to ensure the health and safety of their pool users, in addition with their responsibility to balance financial deficits related to COVID-19 are crucial, and the university looks forward to tentatively welcoming people back to the Alumni Aquatic Centre next fall.