Grosvenor Outdoor Pool —thinking about it, you can almost feel the hot sun on your back and a sticky popsicle running down your fingers. The pool conjures up imagery of carefree days, laughing kids and splashing about while someone loudly cannonballs off the diving board. It’s the smell of sunscreen and summer. For many, especially those who frequented the beloved pool during its heyday in the seventies, St. Albert’s outdoor pool stirs up memories of youthful days and simpler times.
St. Albert experienced an influx of people starting in the late sixties through to the early seventies. With a population that doubled during that time (going from about 10,000 people to 21,000), an increased interest by the city to focus on residents’ quality of life and recreational needs began to develop. Under Mayor Dick Fowler and Recreational Director Elmer Harrison, plans were put into place to bring a swimming pool to St. Albert.
In 1967, Canada’s Centennial Year, St. Albert built its first swimming pool, Grosvenor Outdoor Pool. But that almost didn’t happen. After the plans were approved in 1965 to spend $75,000 on an outdoor pool (along with $75,000 for an arena), some 190 residents signed a petition asking council to scrap the original plans for the two facilities and to build a covered pool instead. The issue went to a plebiscite at the next municipal election where it was defeated and the original facilities went ahead as planned.
Superior Granite Ltd. was awarded the contract to build the open-air pool. They were given more money than was originally budgeted to build the facility, having just over $90,000 to work with.
The golden years for Grosvenor Outdoor Pool were the seventies. Lineups would form down the block to get into the public swim on hot summer days. Residents may recall something of a St. Albert legend from this time in the pool’s history; when waiting for admission, swimmers would muse over a well-known landmark that sat in the driveway of a house across the street from the pool—Clarke’s Ark. For years in the early seventies, Don Clarke slowly built a concrete hull ship in his driveway. Waiting in line, it is said that kids would joke how the boat should set sail on its maiden voyage at the outdoor pool.
By the mid seventies, Grosvenor Outdoor Pool had peaked. It was no longer able to satisfy the growing population of the town that would soon become a city. St. Albert’s population was sitting at about 19,000 people by now.
In 1978, Fountain Park Pool, a facility that boasted 30,000 square feet of leisure space, broke onto the scene and became the new hot spot for swimming in St. Albert.
Though no longer king, Grosvenor Pool continued to be a popular place for residents to visit in the summer. Events such as competitive swimming, lessons and free swim time were staples at the facility. In the early eighties, you could expect to spend a whopping 75 cents to enter a swimming competition at the pool.
St. Albert City Council considered closing down the pool in the nineties for budgetary reasons. That saddened and upset a lot of residents, and it is said that some school children reportedly chanted, “Save our pool!” during a city council meeting. The decision was made to keep the pool open.
In 2006, Grosvenor Pool had a major facelift; however, most of its historical design was preserved. A new clubhouse, dressing room and pool were all part of the renovations. This was a big year for swimming amenities in St. Albert, with Servus Credit Union Place also being constructed.
2012 saw the First Annual Dog Swim at the pool, in association with the Second Chance Animal Rescue Society (SCARS). The popular fundraising event takes place on the last day Grosvenor Outdoor Pool is open for the season (Labour Day) and lets the city’s pool-loving pooches take a dip for a good cause.
Currently the pool is undergoing an assessment by the city. St. Albert City Council wants more people to use the pool and is conducting a study on how to make that happen. There are public surveys being circulated around the community, including at the pool itself, to gather input (the survey can also be accessed online at stalbert.ca). City decision makers will get a report at the end of 2015 on the findings of the survey. They will be looking at things like best practice research, trends and assessments on the impact of increased utilization at the facility.
Whether you enjoyed St. Albert’s outdoor pool in your youth or are a first-timer, Grosvenor Outdoor Pool is a must-visit this summer and a space where memories will no doubt be made. t8n
Archival Credit A15580 –
Provincial Archives of Alberta
MHM198 – Musée Héritage Museum, 1986.24.328