Fuel and water don't usually go together but they proved a perfect mix for Brantford on Tuesday.
A family who made its fortune in the fuel business is donating $1 million toward a state-of-the-art aquatic centre at the new Laurier Brantford YMCA Athletics and Recreation Centre.
Roger and Edith Davis, founders of Davis Fuels, were given a standing ovation after the donation was announced.
"I feel a little more comfortable at the gas pump," Roger quipped from the podium at the Brantford Family YMCA, which was decorated with pool noodles and beach balls for the event.
The aquatic centre, which will be named for the Davis family, will feature two pools for teaching, fitness, competitions, therapy and leisure, said a release. A six-lane, 25-metre lap pool will accommodate up to 180 swimmers while a second 60-person pool will have a movable floor enabling it to go from being very shallow to 2.1 metres deep, making it ideal for everyone from young children to adults. There will also be a 12-person therapy pool.
The centre and all three pools will be wheelchair accessible.
The $58.4-million Laurier Brantford YMCA Athletics and Recreation Centre is planned for the south side of Colborne Street across from Harmony Square in Brantford's core. It’s a joint venture between Laurier and the YMCA of Hamilton-Burlington-Brantford.
University, YMCA and civic officials hailed the partnership and the centre's potential.
"Together, in true partnership, we're creating more than a recreational complex – we are creating a social hub…a space for healthy living in the core of a city that is rebuilding itself," said Rob Donelson, vice-president of development and alumni relations at Laurier.
The complex will also include multi-purpose spaces for group fitness classes, social, educational and cultural programming, a health and wellness centre with treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes and weights, and a large gymnasium with retractable seating for 1,200 spectators for sport and recreation training, competitions and functions.
Work is expected to begin this summer and the goal is to open the facility in September 2016, said Kevin Klein, associate director of communications and public affairs at Laurier.
It will be open to the Laurier and local communities.
The provincial and federal governments have each committed $16.7 million to the project, with the City of Brantford committing $5.2 million. There is also a community fundraising campaign underway seeking to secure $5 million.
"It's something that's important. We need to get excitement over the project because it’s been going on for five years," said Brantford Mayor Chris Friel, in praising the Davis family for being among the first to step up.
Floyd Davis said he and his four siblings learned to swim in the pool at the old Brantford Y on Queen Street. It was something his mother believed was vital, especially since the family enjoyed the outdoors and activities like canoeing.
"It's a big part of Canadian life – you should know how to swim," he said.
The Brantford YMCA is the only facility within the YMCA of Hamilton-Burlington-Brantford that is currently without a pool.
In 2005, the YMCA relocated to its current Wellington Street location, but the location was considered temporary until a new larger facility with a pool could be built. Laurier's current facility, Wilkes House, doesn’t meet the needs of the growing campus enrolment.
"The partnership between Laurier and the YMCA allows the two organizations to bring a much-needed athletics and recreation facility to downtown Brantford, with a state-of the-art aquatic centre," said Jim Commerford, president and CEO of the regional YMCA.
The Davis family is known for its generosity in the community. Roger earned the Brant News 2013 Community Hero Award. Davis Fuels sponsors some 50 minor teams in ringette, soccer and hockey and has supported many community projects, including a $1-million donation to the Brant County Sports Complex in Paris.
"I can think of no one that I know in Canada who is as generous on a local level as you two," said Brant MP Phil McColeman.