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Council votes down changes to future rec-centre site plan

St. Albert city council has decided to stick with the most detailed design of the future Community Amenities Site to-date by voting down two motions on Tuesday that would've scrapped the current design, while simultaneously bumping the project's cost by about $14 million.
Council approved this preliminary concept plan of the Community Amenities Site last month. CITY OF ST. ALBERT/Screenshot

St. Albert city council voted down a pair of motions on Tuesday that would have scrapped the design of a future rec-centre site while simultaneously bumping the project's cost by $14 million. Council opted instead to stick with the most detailed design of the future Community Amenities Site to date.

The Community Amenities Site is a long-term city project that would result in a new recreation centre in the city's northwest. Last month council gave preliminary approval to a site plan, and heard the current project estimate is between $80 and $110 million.

The first motion was put forward by Coun. Mike Killick, who sought to add a second ice sheet to the facility at the expense of the designated outdoor ball diamond and soccer field. Killick previously told the Gazette he wanted to add a second ice sheet to the design to meet demand for ice time from local sports groups such as the St. Albert Minor Hockey Association and the St. Albert Ringette Association.

A second ice sheet would have added an additional $14 million to the project's estimate, according to a report to council written by Manda Wilde, the city's interim manager of recreation development and partnerships.

Wilde's report also says an additional ice sheet would also increased the number of annual "prime time" ice hours available by about 16 per cent. Prime ice time hours are evenings and weekends between September and March.

Currently, not including the first ice sheet already planned for the future rec-centre, the city says about 9,600 prime time hours are available in St. Albert each year. 

Last year the prime time ice was 94 per cent filled, leaving just 600 hours of prime ice time available, Wilde's report states, and each additional ice sheet included in the future rec centre would add about 1,900 prime ice hours each year.

During debate, Killick said he wasn't trying to support certain sports group over others. Rather, he was responding to high demand from the public for more arenas the city heard earlier this year when five community amenities site concept scenarios were released for feedback.

“I'm really trying to listen to not only the ice users, but the community at large who said that ice was a higher priority than anything else,” he said.

Coun. Sheena Hughes, speaking against Killick's motion, said even with the addition of a second ice sheet, the future rec-centre will not meet every recreation-based need in the community, and it was more important to achieve the greatest diversity of options than cater to a select few activities.

“Personally, I'm just not in favour of cutting out the ball diamond. I'd rather have diversity; otherwise, it's not really a community amenities site, it's just more of a one-facility type of site,” Hughes said.

“The reality also is that while we're planning for this, it could be a very long time before anything actually gets built because we just don't have the cash for it.”

Kelby Wall, the St. Albert Fastball Association's director of communications, also spoke to council during the meeting and asked for the ball diamond to remain included in the site plan because the organization already struggles for field space every summer.

“Our season runs from April to July and during those months, there aren't enough diamonds for our players in St. Albert,” Wall told council. She said because of St. Albert's limited softball diamond availability, the organization isn't able to host provincial or national tournaments, despite its players consistently taking top honours.

“This results in increased costs for our association, travel costs for our teams, and the loss of real home game experience that our players deserve,” she said.

Killick's motion was defeated with only himself in favour.

The other motion council voted down on Aug. 15 was put forward by Coun. Hughes, who wanted to remove the proposed high school space from the rec-centre site plan, and create a new high school site on the city's Badger Lands, located just north of Villeneuve Road.

Hughes previously told the Gazette she put the motion forward in part because of Killick's motion, which, if passed, would have meant the high school would have been without field space, a “basic amenity” expected for a high school, and because she was concerned there wouldn't be adequate parking for the students.

Despite Killick's motion being defeated, Hughes argued the future rec centre still wasn't the best location for a high school because students would likely not be able to walk to school because they would need to cross Ray Gibbon Drive, and because the school still wouldn't have immediate access to field space, specifically a football field.

“They would actually be able to have a proper field and have proper needs met,” Hughes said of moving the high school site to the Badger Lands. “I'm just thinking that we should try to put more recreation in a recreation site and then allow a high school to have the room it needs to breathe.”

In a separate report, Wilde noted that city staff have "some concern" about removing the high school from the site plan because of the three existing school sites in St. Albert, this is the only space considered suitable for a high school.

St. Albert Public Schools spokesperson Paula Power previously said although the division doesn't want another high school in the northwest, it doesn't want to lose any designated school sites because of how few exist in St. Albert.

Coun. Ken MacKay, speaking against Hughes' motion, said he felt it was “premature” to dedicate a portion of the Badger Lands as a school site before city administration has the opportunity to assess other possible uses. 

“(Administration) could come back with any number of different uses,” he said. “We still haven't yet got a complete report in relation to actually what's there (with regard to) all of the soil contamination.”

“I just don't want to tie administration's hands yet by dedicating it to a particular use, when right now we just don't have that much information.”

Hughes' motion failed with herself, Coun. Shelley Biermanski, and Coun. Killick in favour.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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