City unsuccessful in bid to get grant funding for new aquatic centre

By Matthew Liebenberg

The City of Swift Current will be going back to the drawing board after an unsuccessful funding application for a new aquatic centre.

Mayor Al Bridal announced at the start of the regular council meeting on Feb. 20 that Infrastructure Canada informed the City the application to the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings (GICB) program was unsuccessful.

“This is understandably a very disheartening result,” he said. “However, there is an opportunity here to regroup and continue applying for grants in support of recreational facilities here in Swift Current.”

The Southwest Facility Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports the construction of new recreational facilities in Swift Current, issued a media release in response to the announcement that the City’s grant application of $25 million did not succeed. It confirmed that the Foundation would continue to support the efforts of the City to obtain provincial or federal funding for future recreational facility construction.

“Although we are disappointed in the current grant application announcement, we can use this adversity to come out stronger in our next bid for government grants in support of our community.” Southwest Facility Foundation Chair Sasha Godenir said in the statement. “Our team has made great strides in support of financial assistance for builds of this nature and moving forward the Foundation will continue to work diligently to assist in the financial leadership required for new recreational facilities in our community.”

The Southwest Facility Foundation was launched in April 2023 with a goal to raise $8 million towards the construction of new sport, leisure, and recreational facilities in Swift Current. The Foundation already made several announcements about funding commitments by various organizations and families with a total value of close to $700,000.

“We are confident with the recent momentum from the Foundation that our future grant applications will be even stronger thanks to our efforts,” Godenir said in the media statement. “We believe ‘It Is Time To Build’ and together we can foster and begin to get the wheels in motion to ensure that all levels of government invest in our community and build facilities to enhance recreational, health and sport services for many generations to come.”

Bridal noted during a media interview after the council meeting that this was the City’s second unsuccessful bid for federal grant funding in recent years. Its previous application for the construction of a multifunctional field house was submitted to the initial round of the GICB program in 2021.

“There’s so many communities in our country that are applying for this and it’s just coming down to sort of our turn in the lottery, so to speak,” he said. “We’re in western Canada and some other communities in western Canada have got this grant, and we just have to wait our turn. We’ve been waiting for quite a few years, because we really haven’t got a grant like this in a very, very long time.”

He preferred to look on the bright side of this latest decision by Infrastructure Canada, because the City’s application remained longer in contention than the previous time.

“I think there were 1,500 applicants two years ago and we didn’t even make the top 500,” he said. “This year it took several more months to get ahold of us. They haven’t told us where we ranked, like whether we made the top 100 or 500. I’m guessing we did, but we still did not receive the funding.”

The City’s intention is to persist and to make another submission as soon as the application process opens for the next round of grant funding from this program.

“We’ve heard there’ll be another one up within the next few months and of course we’re going to apply again,” he said.

The significant cost of a new recreational facility, whether an aquatic centre or a field house, will make it impossible for the City to proceed without financial support from other levels of government.

“We need that kind of funding from the federal and the provincial governments in order for us to build a facility like that,” he said.

Any future success in obtaining grant funding from another level of government will still require additional borrowing by the City to proceed with construction. For example, a grant from the GICB program means that 73.33 per cent of total construction cost will be covered by the Government of Canada in association with the Government of Saskatchewan. The City will be responsible for 26.7 per cent of project costs plus any shortages, potential cost overruns or new scope of work.

“This money is not borrowed by the City of Swift Current or by Al Bridal,” he said. “The City of Swift Current is all 17,000 citizens we have living here. … There’s definitely a will from some people. There are people that are against it, but generally, I mean, we’ve heard from the public they want it. So my guess is there is that will.”