Rec Centre problems go way back


Editor: Since 1983, the Canmore Recreation Centre (CRC) has had a storied history of unfortunate planning and has been underfunded. It shows.

Last week at council’s special meeting we witnessed another blunder in the numerous shortfalls of the CRC. Does calling a poorly advertised special meeting without the full compliment of council (Mayor Borrowman absent) show good service to this sizeable investment ($10.5 million+) and important community project? I’m left with more questions than answers. How about you?

Council voted down the central staircase that, in the last few meetings, the pre-tender pricing mentioned ranged from $250,000 to $430,000. That’s a big, unknown discrepancy. Saying “users will find their way upstairs” isn’t good enough. So now patrons can traipse through Thelma Crowe in front of spectators and up the north stairwell or navigate their way up the south stairwell. Either way, it’s not a good user experience and a long way around, especially with a drink and food.

More questions: where are the change rooms and lockers (dare we ask for showers?) for the classes you’ll attend in the multi-purpose spaces?

Last week, Councillor Joanna McCallum commented on the success of Elevation Place (EP): “that place vibrates; it’s busy people love it.” So, the question is, why?

EP vibrates because it’s aesthetically pleasing, welcoming and, for the most part, has a decent layout. The CRC could too – but not without a functional (not fancy) central staircase. Sometimes it costs money to get a design right (not always mutually exclusive). Asking for more money (a small percentage of the whole project) to be used prudently will effect positive change.

It was standing room only last week at council chambers. To quote an email comment made to the user groups by CAO Lisa deSoto last year: “A key learning for us is how much ownership users have for the facility and how much they value and appreciate the amenities they use. The relationship we have with facility users is an important one and we wish to gain back any trust we have lost through this current phase of the project.”

Trust isn’t there. I too want to believe in what this Town can achieve if we work together. To date, this project has been a huge strain on resources (people’s time, and mounting design costs).

At the committee of the whole meeting on Feb. 13, Ms. Bain states, “the original intent of the project is to complete the essential lifecycle maintenance.” In the summary given to council that day, there was no mention of moving Town administration offices into Lady MacDonald Hall as part of that list of lifecycle items. Is this purely maintenance and lifecycle, or is this a renovation? Can they be mutually exclusive?

To make the building buzz and to fulfill the mandate set out in Canmore’s Master Recreation Plan (2016), we should ask: How do we maximize the use of this building and increase its operational revenue?

This project and the process gets a failing grade. If we continue down this path, CRC will hobble along for the next 25 years. It will never ‘vibrate.’

Jill Branson,



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Rocky Mountain Outlook