By Doug Hallett
Ward 6 councillor Todd Dennis is hailing a new process announced by city hall for moving closer to getting a recreation centre built in the city’s south end.
“It has been a long time coming,” Dennis said Monday about the new recreational study, which includes a public survey being conducted by the city until March 28. He hopes a city staff report that’s to go to council in June will spell out what should go into a south end recreation centre and also provide “some idea how we are going to build it, where the funds are going to come from,” he said in an interview. The city has a recreational reserve fund of close to $7 million from development charges collected over several years, Dennis said.
A 2009 study estimated the cost of a south end rec centre at $42 million, which today would be a “conservative figure” for it would cost, Dennis said.
Options for bridging the gap of at least $35 million could include taking on debt to be repaid from future development charges, said the first-term councillor. Another option is a public-private partnership, he said.
Asked if it’s a coincidence this issue is coming to the fore during an election year, Dennis said he’s been pushing for it as long as he’s been on council. He said he thought the study should have been done a year ago, so the south end rec centre could have been part of the city’s 2014 budgeting.
Some city residents aren’t going to be happy hearing in an election year about an expensive project like this, but “we can’t just ignore the needs of the community,” Dennis said.
The survey being done until March 28 is about how to best meet all of the city’s recreation needs. This includes the “relatively underserviced” south end, said a city hall news release Thursday.
“Guelph is expected to grow by more than 54,000 people over the next 20 years,” the city’s general manager of parks and recreation Murray Cameron, said in the release.
“This growth will impact the availability of space to deliver recreational programs across the city, particularly in the south end neighbourhoods,” he said.
The survey, which takes 15 minutes to complete, can be done online by visiting guelph.ca/southendreccentre.
People can also pick up a hard copy of the survey at the Guelph Public Library’s Westminster branch in the south end, Victoria Road Recreation Centre, Evergreen Seniors Community Centre, West End Community Centre or the ServiceGuelph counter in city hall.
The survey asks residents about the types of recreation activities and programs they have participated in over the past 12 months, as well as the types of activities and programs they would like to be offered by the city.
One of the questions asks what “major amenities” people think should be included in the design of a recreation centre in the southern part of Guelph “if a new facility were to be built in the south end.”
The city will hold a public meeting on Tuesday April 15 at 7 p.m. in the community room of the Clair Road Emergency Services Centre, 160 Clair Rd. W. It’s to review various concepts based on input received from the survey, focus groups and user groups, and online discussion. An online discussion forum is at guelph.ca/southendreccentre.
By Doug Hallett