Ankle-deep city hall fountain tested
First portion of $17.5-million plaza to reopen, ice rink will be in place through winter
After two summers of drought, the fountain in front of city hall is flowing again and the first portion of the $17.5-million revamped plaza is set to open by the end of the month.
Eager children will need to wait until next year to step foot in the shallower wading pool with winterization set to begin after testing is complete. But an ice rink will take its place throughout the winter as soon as the colder weather sets in.
It was a long road for the city to get to Monday as media had a tour of the site where fountain testing is underway in the ankle-deep pool surrounded by wooden benches and tables.
A waterproof membrane failure impacted by significant rain forced the fountain to miss another summer.
“We ran into a number of unforeseens on this site,” said civic precinct program manager Eugene Gyorfi. “The winter was extremely cold, the spring was extremely wet.”
But even with the delays and complications, Gyorfi said the city is currently in line with the $13.4-million construction budget. Costs to replace the faulty membrane fell specifically on the contractor and the city wasn’t responsible for any of the additional budgeting.
Work on the plaza, formally known as the civic precinct, began in the summer of 2018 to replace the worn 25-yearold fountain and wading pool and bring it in line with Alberta Health Services standards.
This includes making the space fully accessible without any stairs, easier access to Churchill Square as well as the ability to drain the granite-lined pool in one hour to not leave it sitting unmonitored and full of water overnight.
Perhaps the most noticeable change is the depth of the pool, which was also the most debated in the lead-up to construction. Many residents expressed concerns in decreasing the depth of the pool from 40 centimetres, about knee height, to 15 centimetres and around the ankles.
But an 8-4 vote by council last February approved the design, with the majority arguing it’s the best choice to adhere to the necessary health regulations. Although much shallower, city staff said they believe the changes will help increase use of the space with the additional safety and accessibility features.
The second phase of the project, including a deck for festival use, will be built in tandem with the nearby LRT construction and expected to be completed by early 2021.
Gyorfi said the goal is to welcome festivals back to the open space next summer.