The start of something big

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Town residents hail start to new rec-centre project

Morinville residents celebrated the start of their biggest capital project in history last week with hot dogs, hockey sticks, and a whole lot of wind.

Morinville councillors and Alexander First Nation Chief Kurt Burnstick symbolically broke ground on the town’s new regional recreation centre on the lands just east of Morinville last June 28.

Council had voted the previous night to fast track the rec-centre’s field house and build it in parallel with the arena (see related article, page 15). At $24.3 million, the regional rec-centre is the biggest capital project in town history, according to Mayor Lisa Holmes.

While the groundbreaking ceremony took place by the old white barn just east of Morinville, Putnam said the actual rec-centre would be built near the line of trees a block further east, as that’s where Alberta Transportation wanted the town to build the access road off Hwy. 642. The old barn and house now on the rec-centre site are slated for demolition, he added.

The groundbreaking featured a blessing by Alexander elder Ron Arcand – one that almost didn’t happen, as it was too windy for him to light the ceremonial sweetgrass. Dignitaries formed an impromptu windbreak around him to assist with the ignition.

Dignitaries slung the ceremonial dirt using golden shovels and signed one of them for donation to the Musée Morinville Museum. They also signed a number of commemorative trowels as souvenirs.

About 130 people, including the mayors of Spruce Grove, Sturgeon County and St. Albert, viewed pictures of the groundbreaking at the construction kick-off party held at the community cultural centre about an hour later. Guests enjoyed free hot dogs and souvenir miniature hockey sticks, a presentation on the rec-centre project, and an honour song performed by drummers from Alexander.

Rec-centre steering committee vice-chair Joe Gosselin was at the party, and said he was excited that the town had decided to fast track the field house. The field house would give the rec-centre the dressing rooms needed to host major hockey tournaments, while the walking track would be of great benefit for seniors in the winter.

Cash please?

One looming question over the rec-centre is its cost. Priced at $24.3 million, what town residents will have to pay in taxes will largely depend on the amount of cash council rustles up from other governments.

Sturgeon County was waiting on the results of the business case study for the rec-centre and wanted to survey its voters before it committed cash to it, said county Mayor Tom Flynn. Still, he was anxious to see the centre built.

“It’s good for the region and it’s good for all of us in this area.”

While this new rec-centre might draw county residents away from Servus Place, St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse said it would also make Morinville a more sustainable regional hub.

Morinville hasn’t officially asked St. Albert to fund the rec-centre yet, Crouse said. While the town did help St. Albert pay for Servus Place, he wasn’t sure if St. Albert would reciprocate in this situation.

“The reason St. Albert requested (help from Morinville) was that Morinville users were driving into St. Albert. I don’t think you’re going to see St. Albert users drive out to Morinville as much.”

Morinville chief administrative officer Andy Isbister said grading on the rec-centre site would likely start in a couple of weeks, with construction due to start in September.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.