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BEHIND THE SCENES: ‘Question of cost’: Still no timeline for reopening Laurentian pool's Heidi Ulrichsen takes us behind the scenes

In each “Behind the Scenes” segment, Village Media's Scott Sexsmith sits down with one of our local journalists to talk about the story behind the story.

These interviews are designed to help you better understand how our community-based reporters gather the information that lands in your local news feed. You can find more Behind the Scenes from reporter across Ontario here

Today's spotlight is on's Heidi Ulrichsen, whose story "‘Question of cost’: Still no timeline for reopening Laurentian pool" was published on April 26.

Note to readers: At one point during the Behind the Scenes interview, Ulrichsen misspoke when she talked about the period of time when the pool started to leak. This happened in early 2022, not in 2020.

Below is the full story, in case you missed it.

Asked during an April 26 meeting about the status of Laurentian University’s long-closed Jeno Tihanyi Olympic Gold Pool, an administrator with the university said there’s currently no specific timelines on when it can be reopened.

“We’re looking at the minimum required so we can get it reopened, but we don’t have a specific date,” said Sylvie Lafontaine, Laurentian’s vice-president finance and administration, speaking during Friday’s LU board of governors meeting.

The administrator was responding to questions on the status of the pool from Laurentian union representatives Robyn Gorham and Tom Fenske.

Lafontaine said it’s “a question of cost,” adding that “I also want to highlight that it's not just fixing those cracks in the pool, but also it's looking at it like as a facility overall, how we can make sure that it is a building that it will be appropriate for reopening it to the community, as well as the university students.”

The Jeno Tihanyi Pool, which was built in 1972, was shut down in the spring of 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and never reopened. In early 2022, with Laurentian University still undergoing insolvency restructuring, the pool started to leak. 

With LU having exited insolvency in late 2022 and able to spend money on repairing more than the absolute essentials, Laurentian has been investigating what it would cost to repair and reopen the facility.

Laurentian has been providing the community with regular updates on the status of the pool, and said this winter the next one was expected to come by April 30.

Materials provided as part of the April 26 meeting show that no funds have been allocated to fixing the pool as part of Laurentian’s 2024-2025 deferred maintenance budget.

(You can view that report starting on page 55 of the board package for the April 26 meeting).

There was, however, $300,000 allocated toward assessing the state of the pool as part of Laurentian’s 2023-2024 deferred maintenance budget. Information provided during the April 26 meeting revealed that $108,686 of that amount has been spent. has learned that a repair options report on the pool was produced in December 2023 by Laurentian’s consultant, JL Richards. 

After Laurentian declined to provide us with a copy of the report, formally submitted a freedom of information request to obtain the document. The university said it needs until June to respond to our request due to the necessity for third-party consultations.

Laurentian said in February it planned to initiate discussions with the City of Greater Sudbury on the pool’s future, and create a joint planning committee for a plan and funding model for Laurentian’s athletic facilities.

It seems those discussions are now underway with the city. 

“As of last week, we did get to meet with the mayor's office and his team on how we're going to be moving forward in a more comprehensive review of the athletics and recreation on campus,” said Lafontaine.

She said Laurentian will also be part of the city’s review of aquatic facilities in the area, which will be tabled in the fall. has reached out to Mayor Paul Lefebvre’s office to see what he has to say about the Jeno Tihanyi pool.

“Laurentian University has a very tight financial framework that we have to operate under and therefore, the cost of those repairs, we need to figure out a way of funding those,” Lafontaine said. 

“So this time, we're still making progress. We'll be establishing that particular working group with the city and various members of the communities to look more broadly at all of LU’s athletics offerings while making sure to working collaboratively with the city."

Laurentian University’s new president, Lynn Wells, said during the meeting that she visited the pool a few days ago.

“It does seem sad to have this great empty space that's not operative and not serving our community,” she said. 

“I think what we all need to recognize is that given our particular financial situation, we’re going to need to be creative. But we cannot commit operating dollars to the pool at this point, because we have many other priorities, including supporting our people on our campus, our academic priorities or research priorities. 

“So that means, as Sylvie's rightly noted, that we need to work with our community partners, we need to find solutions that will bring funds to reopen the pool as quickly as possible through other means, rather than committing our operating dollars or our quite scarce, in fact, deferred maintenance dollars.”

Heidi Ulrichsen is’s assistant editor. She also covers education and the arts scene.