Morinville mayor candidates discuss aging arena
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 02, 2013 06:00 am
Morinville needs a new arena. The current one is literally rotting away despite last fall’s $300,000 emergency repair job, and is likely on its last legs. Town council put $100,000 into its last budget to design a replacement for it.
A new arena was a big issue for Paul Smith this election. The owner of Smith Music and head of the Morinville Festival Society dealt with a lot of youth in town, and said they need a place to play.
Recreation centres are the hub of sporting activities and recreation for a community, Smith said, and Morinville needs one.
His question to the town’s mayoral candidates: “How do you plan to proceed with the arena and/or the recreation centre?”
Fingler and Foss
Morinville has at least two options here, said candidate Sheldon Fingler: go it alone or partner with others for a regional facility.
“A go-it-alone approach means Morinville has greater control over the type of facility, content and location,” he said, but also means it has to absorb the costs. “With a regional approach, the scope and content of the facility could be greater and more diverse.”
Fingler did not explicitly commit to either option, but noted that town council recently accepted the Sturgeon regional recreation facility master plan, which recommended construction of a regional recreation facility somewhere in the county. Residents at a forum held last month in town by the local Rotary Club generally supported a regional centre, but disagreed over its location.
The town needs to hold an open and transparent discussion on which way to go on the arena, Fingler said.
“Whatever the debate, there must be an organized outreach to youth, families, seniors, and singles to see what their ideas are and what any such facility should include,” he said.
The smartest thing Morinville can do is to start building a new arena, candidate Carrie Foss said.
“If we start from scratch with a new building placed in a different location, we have the opportunity to expand from there,” she said.
The town should seek grants and spending cuts to fund it, she said.
The town will need a multi-use centre in the future, Foss said.
“However, to do so now when our town coffers are so low seems to me to be an unnecessary waste of resources and tax dollars.”
She envisioned six to 10 years of strategic planning before such a centre would happen, during which the town would set aside funds to build the centre over time. When built, it would likely have a pool, an auditorium, and various meeting rooms.
Holmes and Naughton
Morinville’s immediate priority is to replace or enhance the town’s current arena (the Ray McDonald) within two years, said candidate Lisa Holmes.
Council is now working on a multi-use recreation facility strategy.
“This isn’t just another plan that will sit on a shelf,” she said – it will be a step-by-step plan to figure out the most cost-effective way to build a recreation centre.
Like Foss, Holmes called for a phased approach to a recreation centre, one that would start with a twin-sheet arena and add an indoor pool, field house and other items as finances permit.
“We also need to be creative and look for ways to capitalize on the commercial opportunities for the land that would surround this facility,” she said, adding that council should push to have the facility built in Morinville.
“Many people have told me that they are willing to pay more taxes in order to get this facility faster,” Holmes said, “but that isn’t an option for everyone. It will take thoughtful planning, community consultation and a focus on creative partnerships to get the facility that we all want in a fiscally-responsible way.”
Candidate Christa Naughton did not submit a response.