By Doug Hallett
Despite concerns about the high price tag, city council has endorsed in principle a proposal to build a $59-million recreation centre in the South End Community Park behind Bishop Macdonell high school.
An 11-1 vote saw only Coun. Bob Bell vote against a city staff recommendation to refer the proposed facility to the city’s 2015 budget process for inclusion somewhere in the city’s 10-year capital forecast.
“I am not an advocate of large recreation centres,” said Bell, who argued that surveys have shown Guelph residents give top recreational priority to trails.
Bell wanted the south end project scaled back to a couple of smaller facilities, one built sooner and the other built later, to save money and prevent a south end community centre from squeezing out other recreational projects in the city.
“It is not either-or. I don’t think we take trails out” of the budget, south end councillor Todd Dennis responded. A new consultants’ study shows that building two smaller facilities would cost more than one big centre, he said.
Fellow Ward 6 councillor Karl Wettstein said it’s crucial to get the south end community centre back into the city’s capital budget forecast, but “I think we are going to have to find a way to get it (the facility’s budget) down.”
Al Horsman, the city’s chief financial officer, said money from development charges could be used to pay $40 million of the facility’s cost.
The proposed centre, up to 150,000 square feet in size, is to include two ice rinks, an aquatics complex, seniors’ programming space, multi-purpose gymnasium and meeting rooms.
“No doubt there are challenges ahead, but we have reached a milestone” in terms of getting a south end community centre built, said Mayor Karen Farbridge.
A seven-month study analyzed existing conditions, programs and facilities, identified current priorities and projected recreation needs, and evaluated community-generated ideas for meeting recreation needs in the south end. A preferred option with costs and concept drawings was identified and a plan for implementation was created.
After an evaluation of five possible sites, the city-owned property south of the high school on Clair Road was identified as the most feasible and cost-effective location for the facility. Land size and configuration, access to public transit, proximity to other municipal facilities, and Guelph’s Official Plan and zoning were all taken into account, the city says.
By Doug Hallett