After 44 years of operation, the Marion Aquatics Centre will close its doors on June 30.
The Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, who have operated the pool since it opened in 1977, announced the decision in a joint media release with the City of Prince Albert on Monday.
Sr. Lise Paquette, the provincial superior of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, said the pool has been a huge benefit for all who used it, but Sisters didn’t have the resources to keep it open.
“It is a difficult decision,” Paquette said during a phone interview on Tuesday. “We are sad to let it go, and yet, it is time to do it. We’ve carried this institution for many years, and sometimes, with a good thing, you have to let it go at the right time.”
The Sisters of the Presentation of Mary are celebrating 225 years of operation in 2021, including 118 in Saskatchewan. However, their numbers in Prince Albert have declined in recent years. That, and the decision to try and sell the building, contributed to the closure. COVID-19 didn’t help either, since it severely reduced the modest users fees the Sisters charged to help with the upkeep.
“We’ve continued serving as we can,” Paquette explained. “We feel that it’s time to now step back and let someone else take over.”
Paquette added that the Sisters were grateful for the support they received from the City of Prince Albert, which allowed them to continue offering programing at the pool.
The City of Prince Albert has jointly operated Marion Aquatics with the Sisters since 2018. Mayor Greg Dionne said the closure was a sad day for the community, but one he knew was coming.
“It just tears my heart, but they have to move on,” Dionne said. “They’re all getting up in age, and they have had the building up for sale for a while. They do have some interest. They continue to work at it. But, at the end of the day, they don’t have the manpower or the money on their side to help (keep it open).”
The City has contributed roughly $143,000 annually over the past three years to help fund Marion Aquatics. Dionne said the City can’t afford more since they’re in the process of building a new indoor facility.
That means there will be a short-term challenge to replace the programing hosted at Marion Aquatics, but Dionne said opening the City’s outdoor facilities will help lessen the blow, as will indoor pools like the Frank J. Dunn.
“It will be solved, of course when the new facility opens, but I’m sad, and I really wish the Sisters the best,” Dionne added.
Marion Aquatics was opened one year after the Sisters reopened Rivier Academy. Paquette said the Sisters always made it their goal to teach a holistic lifestyle, and the pool helped make that possible.
“We’ve always been wanting to encourage spiritual health, physical health and emotional health,” she said. “When you have the faith-based institutions, the faith covers all aspects of the human person.”
“(Marion Aquatics) gave very good training for the students, and then we decided it was good to open it to the City,” she added. “It has given good service to all our people at the City here, and the Sisters themselves.”
The building at 1405 Bishop Pascal is currently listed for sale. The site has been the subject of a number of proposals in recent years, including a proposal from an Ontario-based developer to turn the building into seniors apartments. It has also been discussed as the proposed site of a new French-language school in Prince Albert.