Canmore council appears to be pinned against the boards with no obvious solution when it comes to a major capital project for its Rec Centre facility this year.
The facility houses two ice rinks, home to Canmore Minor Hockey, figure skating and the AJHL Canmore Eagles team, but some of its oldest components date back to the early 1980s in the community.
The necessity for significant repairs to the building has been known for over a decade, and that it would require a multi-million dollar budget.
But just how much it will cost to repair the aged building is turning out to be more than council might be willing to pay to achieve the full to-do list of repairs assessed as needed.
What started as a repair and maintenance project several years ago, without consultation with user groups on improvements until last June, has now ballooned before contracts are tendered to being almost $4 million over the original $9.5 million budget.
User groups like minor hockey and the Eagles are concerned the process has left their needs behind and, as it currently stands in terms of scope proposed by administration, the final project would leave them the worse for wear.
“The elements that were removed from the project were important for our users and we cannot support the project as it is right now,” said CMH board chair Sara Anderson. “We were never totally in support of the project, but we were working with administration and other user groups on finding possible solutions.
“We really want to work together to get a good solution that is good for the community … let’s really figure out what we can do next in a meaningful way without wasting any more money.”
Facilities project manager Kristine Bain presented an update on the major capital project to council at its February committee of the whole meeting.
“After schematic floor plans were solidified in fall after user engagement, the design progressed with more detail,” said Bain, adding cost estimates were based on high level details until that time.
“As the design progressed to 50 per cent and more design details became available, the construction management began to work with the trades to test the market on pricing in December.
“To everyone’s surprise, the class C cost estimate was $3 to $4 million greater than the $9.5 million construction budget set.
“At this time, trades have not been tendered and it is important to note that until bids are received there is still uncertainty in those cost estimates.”
Council made it clear that administration should suspend the current design process until a decision on changing the scope of the project is made.
But as a result of the desire to keep the budget within $9.5 million, Bain said administration worked to identify items to remove from the project.
Those included removing the indoor snow melt pit for Alex Kaleta Arena, scrapping the refurbishment of the remainder of the seats in that arena, bleacher replacement in the Thelma Crowe arena, removing the ventilation upgrades for the concession stand, a number of mechanical system and floor plan changes, and a set of feature stairs and wall.
The new stairwell in the proposed design was an item that council expressed interest in retaining. Council directed administration to return to a regular council meeting for a decision on the scope change, and to include pricing options that retain the stairwell.
The elements proposed to be retained for construction include essential life cycle maintenance and building code related items like roof upgrades, lighting, ice plant replacement and enlarged dressing rooms for Alex Kaleta Arena, including a flexible change room, and barrier free seating in that arena.
Many of the elements eliminated from the proposed scope change can be tendered separately in the future once funds become available in the capital plan, Bain told council.
The changes to the Canmore Rec Centre as proposed in September only included a modest amount of tangible improvements for users, like better lighting in Alex Kaleta Arena.
That was after user groups asked to have their needs considered as part of the project, which received council approval as a repair and maintenance-focused project in June.
For Canmore Eagles president Darryl Lockwood, the entire process has been one missed opportunity after another.
Not including user groups in the design process, he said, has left everyone involved scrambling to find solutions.
“I don’t know who feels good about this from the town’s perspective, from council’s perspective either,” Lockwood said. “I think if we were more included from the get-go … then council would have had a better picture to understand we can’t afford all these things.
“Don’t spend $10 million and get it wrong. Let’s try to figure out what we need, see what it is worth and then get the money.”
He said what was described as a repair and maintenance project by council and administration now looks like it would leave the Eagles in particular with less than they have now.
The upstairs bar area in the Lady McDonald community hall – dubbed the Eagle’s Nest – would be eliminated, along with the AJHL team’s current ticket booth. Add in scaled back scope of work for seating, heating of the arenas and the lack of accessible seating and change rooms for both genders, and there are very few tangible changes to make the facility better for user groups.
“I would like to see the Town go ahead with the maintenance (aspects of the) project and put all the renovations on hold until we have a clear cut picture on what the renovations would cost and what truly are needed for user groups,” Lockwood said.
Renovations to the building, which are unrelated to user groups, include relocating all administrative offices into where the community hall currently is and creating a lunchroom in that space as well.
The kitchen area upstairs is proposed to be eliminated as well, and the community hall moved into the Peaks of Grassi gym space. The fitness area would move to the space currently occupied by the offices.
Chris Wyman is co-owner of the company that operates the concession area, and the latest iteration removes the ventilation system for the grill and reduces the space by 40 per cent.
Wyman said the changes would challenge his business model, which includes opening for two hours on school days for lunches for nearby high school students.
“We are willing to work with what we are given, whatever the Town decides we will try and make it work,” he said. “But I think having the ventilation is an integral part of the concession.”