Memorial Sports Centre pool renovation focuses on structural changes

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Town of Fort Frances is in the process of selecting a reputable contractor to complete pool renovations at the Memorial Sports Centre, raising hopes that accessibility to the pool will be improved in this phase of the project.

Craig Miller, Interim Operations and Facilities Manager for the Town of Fort Frances, is overseeing the upcoming pool construction.

He says the project is primarily focused on structural components, civil works and pool infrastructure—all important changes that will build a foundation for future phases of work.

“This tender is a critical infrastructure renewal project for the Town of Fort Frances and is made possible through the grant that the Town received from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund,” he said. “The completion of this project will ensure that the pool facility will remain a valuable asset and resource for the Town for many years to come.”

The main changes in this phase of the project pertain to structural repairs to the natatorium superstructure, HVAC improvements, pool wall crack injection and repairs, install pool liner, pool deck repairs, drainage improvements and pool chemical containment updates and accessibility improvements.

All accessibility upgrades as required by regulations will be completed during this project, Miller said. However, as the project focuses on structural changes to the pool, change rooms and other areas will not see significant rehabilitations in this phase.

Changerooms, however, are the first factor that comes to mind when thinking about how to improve accessibility, says Nicole LePine, a wheelchair user since 2016.

“It has such sharp corners that getting to the pool is really difficult,” she said.

Secondly, a better way to enter the pool such as a new ramp or modern lift would make a huge accessibility improvement, LePine says.

“Stairs aren’t for everyone and when the old chair is working, it’s awful and it’s only made for smaller body types.”

LePine added that accessibility at the pool “is not just a want, it’s a need.”

The project was initially listed on the town’s new tendering website,, on August 31, 2023.

“6 vendors have registered for the tender packages,” Miller said. “3 appear to be general contractors and 3 are construction associated and online tendering services.”

Until a contractor is selected, the start and end date of the project will be undetermined. Although the construction timeline will not be firmly known until the tenders are received and a successful contractor selected, the work will be completed as soon as possible.

“One of the project requirements is to complete the work as expeditiously as possible to minimize the disruption to Memorial Sports Centre operations,” Miller said.

Swim classes and programs will not be able to continue during the bulk of renovations; however, construction work will be scheduled in a way so that it can be completed with minimal disruption to swim programs.

To minimize the length of the disruption, Miller said the work may be completed either before or after swim programs.

Miller described the thought-process behind selecting a contractor to “comparing apples to apples.”

“The Town engaged JML Engineering to prepare drawings, work scope and a tender ready package,” he said. “The general contractors are all preparing tenders based on the same engineering packages and completing standardized tender forms online when submitting their tenders so that when administration is reviewing the submitted tenders, we are comparing apples to apples.”

After the bid closing date passes on October 3 at 2 pm, contractors will be evaluated for completeness and any irregularities. Then, the administration team will provide a recommendation to Council on how to move forward.

A mandatory site meeting will be held on September 13 at the sports centre natatorium. Miller says that the objective is for contractors to “eliminate assumptions and familiarize themselves with site conditions and project details.”

A total of $1.66M is allocated for the renovations, including engineering and all project related costs, received by the Town through the grant from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund.