Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim defends city hall gym conversion

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim is defending the conversion of a city hall boardroom into a personal gym after an opposition councillor posted a picture of the room online and questioned the mayor's priorities.

The photo posted by Green Party Coun. Pete Fry comes a day after council approved moving a staff member with an $80K salary to the mayor's office to help him manage his busy schedule.

Fry, along with fellow green Coun. Adriane Carr and OneCity Coun. Christine Boyle, did not support the move, saying the mayor was adding political resources to his office.

Fry said the board room-to-office gym conversion was another example of Sim's failure to adhere to the principles of "process, transparency and good governance."

Fry also posted a letter from Vancouver's city manager, Paul Mochrie, that advised councillors in January that the mayor's office was taking over the room on the third floor of city hall for regular operations.

On Friday, though, Fry happened to peek into the room, which had previously been used for meeting delegations to city hall and found it converted to a sparse gym.

"So it was rather shocking to discover that it wasn't being used," said Fry. "It's not the issue of the gym so much. It's the personal use of the civic asset like that that I find more galling.

"The point being, for me, it was an actual functioning boardroom that we used quite extensively and was explicably expropriated and scrambling to find other locations for that."

Some posters on X, formerly Twitter, were quick to criticize the space and Mayor Sim.

"Mayor Sim is such a frat boy. It's so embarrassing for our city," posted one. Another wrote: "Get Sim out. We need a [mayor] working for his citizens, not working out."

'Health and well-being are crucial'

In a statement issued through his office, Sim said he wanted to move the space, which was intended to host dignitaries, delegations, stakeholders and various community groups, to a more "dignified setting."

The statement said, "To ensure privacy and efficiency, we relocated the boardroom to a larger, more central location for councillors.

"This new space not only offers better privacy for the Mayor's office but also fosters a more conducive environment for meaningful discussions."

The previous room is part of what is known as the mayor's suite, and according to the statement, it was turned into a gym with equipment that Sim says he purchased with his own money.

"Health and well-being are crucial, and this setup allows me to stay focused and energized amidst a demanding schedule," he said.

Fry said city hall is already appointed with a gym onsite available to people who work there.