Recreation centre re-think needed?
Thursday, Feb 22, 2018 06:00 am
If there was ever a time when a municipal re-think may be in order, that time is likely now in respect to pouring money into the Canmore Recreation Centre.
It’s scary enough for taxpayers to see the cost of a $9.5 million repair project creep upward by another $4 million. It’s yet another thing to realize that, after the money is spent, little improvement will be noted.
The former heart of the Town’s recreation infrastructure, the rec centre has now been eclipsed by Elevation Place, but there remains a critical need for the ice and space under its aging, leaky roof.
For the most part, people want to see more done with less, rather than less done with more, but that seems to be the situation with the current capital project.
It’s no wonder user groups are concerned millions of dollars are being spent on a facility which might be better replaced. After all, just a few years ago, Banff spent $33 million on its ice arena – now the Fenlands – and not merely to use bubble gum and duct tape for repairs. Rather, the Fenlands boasts two sheets of ice, a curling club, expansive concession area, modern dressing rooms and other facilities.
Canmore council has already been given the option of adding improvements to the facility last year, when it could have spent $1 million more to move the Alex Kaleta wall and create better sightlines inside, and changerooms outside.
The appetite was not there to add to the project cost – funded $5 million from Municipal Sustainability Initiative grant funds, and $5 million in debt and $320,000 from general capital reserves. That is on top of $400,000 for a spatial needs assessment done on the facility prior.
There was $9.5 million for the construction process and now that major components are on the chopping block, it is a great time in the process to have a total rethink about what exactly is going on. Clearly the focus has been on repairing an aging facility, having concluded there was better value in that approach than from a knock it down and start over standpoint.
But to spend more than $10 million and end up with a facility that has less amenities for user groups and contractors than it currently does, leaves the hundreds of recreational users of the Rec Centre underwhelmed.
If making the Rec Centre better is not an option available within that budget and indeed even an increase to $13.5 million won’t get you any closer to satisfactory, well then perhaps the conversation needs to change.
Nestled inside this project is a major change to the office space on the second floor of the Rec Centre. It’s an important change for administration out of the spatial needs study and a major change for a community facility.
What isn’t clear is just what exactly out of all the changes included in the project are absolutely necessary and what are the nice to haves. What can be sacrificed to the alter of staying on budget and what offerings go too far beyond what citizens are willing to give up?
It would be worthwhile for elected officials to consider the differences between repairs and maintenance versus improvements and upgrades, and what are the objectives our community leaders want to achieve and how much they’re willing to pay. Great recreational facilities aren’t cheap, but spending millions to get less for services and programs won’t get anybody any richer, especially if its political capital you want to spend in the future.