Early field house for rec centre?


Could save town $6.5 million, say builders

Morinville sports fans were all for a proposal to fast track the rec-centre’s field house and save $6.5 million.

Town council was set to vote Tuesday night on whether or not to build both a field house and a new hockey arena this year as part of its new multipurpose rec-centre.

Council was scheduled to officially break ground on the rec-centre today.

Council originally planned to build just the $17.2 million hockey arena this year and put the $12.5 million field house off till later. The plan was to build a running track around the arena now and move the track to the field house once it was built.

Rec-centre construction manager Clark Builders recently proposed building the arena and field house simultaneously, said town chief administrative officer Andy Isbister. This would save the town about $6.5 million, as they could build a smaller arena building (as it would no longer have to accommodate a running track), have the field house and arena share a wall, and not have to re-mobilize construction crews later on.

“It’s a pretty significant savings to try and do it at one time,” Isbister said.

Doing so would mean spending $6 million more on phase one, upping its price to $23.2 million, Isbister said. The town would still be below its self-imposed limit of using no more than 85 per cent of its borrowing capacity if it did so, and could also seek corporate donations to fund the project. The town would also have to significantly revise the arena’s design drawings to include the field house, which could push the start of construction back by up to a month.

“We can borrow the money, I don’t think there’s any problem with that, but it is a big decision to make,” Isbister said.

The aquatics centre, which was slated for phase three, would still be about a decade away even if the field house were built this year, Isbister said.

“The town needs to be a fair bit bigger before we can really afford to operate that.”

Heck yes, say sports fans

The field house itself would actually cost a bit less than $6 million to build under this plan, Coun. Stephen Dafoe said – the extra cash is for basketball courts, dividers and other features.

“We have an opportunity here to save $6.5 million,” he said, speaking on Monday, and council would definitely have to consider it.

Still, Dafoe was concerned about the debt this would involve and how it could affect the town’s long-range capital plans. He also wanted to know the interest rates for five, 10, and 15-year loans, and what dollars, if any, Sturgeon County would contribute.

Members of the town’s rec-centre steering committee were enthusiastic about fast-tracking the field house.

“The sooner we do it, the better,” said Stacey Nordin, committee member and president of the Morinville Soccer Association.

Morinville’s soccer program has grown to some 550 kids this year, all of whom are at a disadvantage as they have no place to practice in the winter, Nordin said. A field house would support soccer, basketball and lacrosse players, let the town host certain tournaments, and draw more visitors to town businesses.

A fast-tracked field house was a fantastic idea that would benefit many residents, said committee member and Sturgeon Hockey Club president Wayne Gatza.

“I would rather see another arena attached to the complex as well. If it means our taxes went up a little bit, so be it.”

Gatza and Nordin said they weren’t too concerned about a potential delay to the opening of the new arena.

“We’ve waited this long; a few more weeks isn’t going to matter,” Nordin said.

stalbertgazette.com will have details on council’s decision and the rec-centre groundbreaking later this week.


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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.