Town out in force to talk arena
120 gather to discuss $56 million project
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Wednesday, Apr 30, 2014 06:00 am
Visit morinville.ca for details on the arena replacement project and to take the online survey.
Morinville residents came out in force this week to tell town council what they want in their new rec-centre, and their message was pretty clear: they want a pool.
About 120 area residents came to Morinville’s Community Cultural Centre Monday for the first open house on the town’s proposed new arena.
Town council decided last December to replace the Ray MacDonald Sports Centre after it learned that it needed about $4.15 million in repairs.
Monday’s meeting was the first time the public got a chance to hear detailed answers on the replacement project.
Mayor Lisa Holmes said this project has drawn more public interest than any other council initiative she knew. About 999 people had taken the town’s online survey on the rec-centre already, and it had only been up for 18 days.
“It’s something everyone will be impacted by, and something everyone is excited about.”
Morinville’s rapid growth and central location mean that it should look to build a regional recreation facility, said Mitch Strocen, consultant with AODBT Architecture (the company hired to do a feasibility study on the project). This open house was meant to get people’s thoughts on what should go into such a centre.
“This decision needs to be made by the people,” he said, and it needs to be an informed decision.
“This is really a once in a generational opportunity.”
AODBT’s feasibility study suggests that the town look at a $56 to $57 million recreation centre featuring an arena, curling rink, pool, fitness centre, field-house and second ice sheet.
Based on costs, need, revenue potential, and community demand, it recommended that the arena and curling rink be built first, with the other elements to follow as funds become available.
While a pool does draw people into a community, it’s also expensive to run, Strocen said, when asked why the report recommended the pool be built later. Their research suggests that a pool would cost about $700,000 a year to run and would rarely, if ever, make money.
“It costs a lot to build, it costs a lot to run, and you don’t make a lot of money on it in the end.” Still if residents want to raise the cash to do it, they can build it, he added.
We want a pool
Residents picked an indoor pool as their highest priority when asked in the town’s online poll about what items should go into the new rec-centre.
Resident Annette Kelsch said the new rec-centre should be a place for all ages, which means it should have exercise equipment and a pool.
“I’ve worked in a facility before where we had a pool, and it gets used all day long” by the young and old, she said.
Kelsch said the cost was an issue, but believes it could be reduced if Morinville gets other communities to support it.
“Make it a facility a large area will use – our whole Sturgeon region and beyond.”
Cardiff resident Chris Moore liked the design proposed by the feasibility study, as it provided flexibility.
“It’s not just a hockey arena. It’s got the ability to do indoor soccer, lacrosse, whatever.”
He was less wild about having a fitness centre in it, as the region already had several commercial facilities of that type.
The feasibility study mentions eight possible sites for the new facility, some of which are outside of Morinville. Precise details on the sites were censored under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act as they dealt with lands the town might not necessarily own yet.
The study ranked the locations based on factors such as accessibility, traffic, cost and size, Holmes said. Town council wants residents to weigh in on which of these factors are the most important before they pick a site.
“We will have a location decided before we break as a council for the summer,” Holmes said.
Council will then hold a second round of open houses and surveys to nail down the features of the rec-centre, with an aim of having a finished design this fall.
The town will open the new centre by 2015, Holmes said. That could mean a finished facility, or it might mean just the hockey arena.