Electrical woes plague Crescent Town Club

Anil Narayan, general manager of the Crescent Town Club, stands by the empty front desk of the popular recreation and community centre. The remains closed after a July 9 fire destroyed the building's electrical equipment, which has proved difficult to replace. PHOTO: Andrew Hudson
Anil Narayan, general manager of the Crescent Town Club, stands by the empty front desk of the popular recreation and community centre. The remains closed after a July 9 fire destroyed the building’s electrical equipment, which has proved difficult to replace.
PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

After showing the dry pool, dark gym and air-scrubbing machines still whirring inside Crescent Town Club since an electrical fire shut it down last July, manager Anil Narayan stopped at the empty front desk.

It’s sad, he said, to see such a bustling, lively place go quiet.

It’s also been very frustrating to repair.

“Everyone wants it done,” said Narayan. “No one seems to understand the delay.”

Narayan said he and the club directors had hoped to reopen in October, then December, but the building’s electrical equipment has proved very difficult to replace. They now expect to reopen in April.

“The facility has been cleaned, the contents have been cleaned, but that’s the holdup – the electrical.”

Built in 1971, Crescent Town Club has an unusual electrical system. It draws power at 573 volts, unlike more common 120- or 240-volt systems.

“For what reason, we don’t know, but that’s how it was built,” said Narayan. “All the panels and all the electrical switch gears – everything was custom built.”

No companies stock the replacement parts the club needed after the fire. Once again, the system had to be custom-made.

But this time, it had to meet Ontario’s latest electrical safety code, rather than the one that was in place back in 1971.

“The entire system basically had to be re-engineered from scratch,” said Narayan. “It’s a very lengthy process.”

Before the closure, Crescent Town Club had about 5,000 regular members. Most live in the six surrounding high-rises that are a short walk away.

When the fire broke out on July 9, the club’s summer kids’ programs were just going into full swing.

No one was injured, but nearly 50 full-time and part-time staff have been temporarily laid off. Among them were several youth workers doing summer jobs.

Several community groups have been affected, from seniors’ programs to ESL classes and settlement services.

In October, the club installed temporary power and hot water systems. They were enough to reopen the daycare on the club’s top floor, but not enough to reopen the gym, squash courts, activity rooms, nor the pool.

Lee-Anne Remus is president of the not-for-profit CREST Swim Club, which has been based out of that pool since 1986.

After the fire, Remus had to scramble to book pool and fitness training elsewhere.

Instead of one home pool and gym, CREST’s 40 competitive swimmers now train at Variety Village, Gordon A Brown and DA Morrison schools, Main Square Community Centre, and Main Fitness.

Remus said she is glad to have those bookings, but the combined permits and rents are about $32,000 more than the club’s $26,000 budget – enough to wipe out its contingency fund.

“We’re a non-profit organization, so we pretty much run a zero-balance sheet,” said Remus. “It’s stressful.”

Founded by head coach Fred Arzaga, Remus said the idea behind the club is to make competitive swimming affordable to anyone. Membership has fallen since the fire, she said, especially among swimmers who live in Crescent Town, which is a low-income neighbourhood.

“We can’t afford to do another year of permitting at other pools,” she said.

Asked if Crescent Town Club will have to raise its permit fees because of the fire, Narayan said no, those losses are insured.

And despite rumours to the contrary, Narayan said Pinedale Properties and the YCC 76 condominium corporation, which maintain Crescent Town Club as a community benefit, have every incentive to see the club open again. Together, they provide half the club’s operating cost, plus whatever deficits may be left over after the club collects its membership and program fees.

“We’re all committed to reopening,” said Narayan.

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The reason that it has been so frustrating for the users of the club is the lack of information that has been provided over the past almost year. Now the reopening has been pushed to June 1st. That is almost a year without service. Pinedale Properties includes the use of Crescent Town Club as part of their rental package and it is listed on their advertisements, yet tenants who have been forced to either go without or pay for membership at another gym will not be reimbursed and in fact are about to see rent raised before the reopening. Understanding that there are complex electrical issue it is understandable that it will take time; however it is just unacceptable to keep telling tenants that it will be reopened and then pushing back the dates. Any professional project manager would provide a project close date and stick to it. One push back of deadline is understandable but this is the third or fourth. People need to know when it is going to open so they can plan for their families and find alternate accommodations if needed. It would be nice if some specifics of what the new delay is were provided.

Very well said Sammie. You have said what is on my mind and many others who live in this area. Health Club is part of my living cost. If it is closed for a year they (the club, Pinedale or for me YCC76) should reimburse the cost of alternative membership for us. Someone should take an initiative to put some pressures on these managements. I don’t know where to make such complaints.

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