By COLLIN GALLANT on March 8, 2022.
The city’s parks and rec department could soon begin the formal planning process to replace aging community facilities that became a major election issue last fall.
A final report on how the department should approach facility repair and replacement was to be voted upon late Monday at council’s regular meeting.
It arrived at the public services committee last week, recommending that planners begin considering decommissioning the Hockey Hounds and Moose Rec Centres and eventually building a twin-plex arena combined with new curling facility.
A plan would be developed to replace the Crestwood Rec Centre and combine offerings at the South Ridge YMCA in a new aquatic and fitness facility.
As well, Heights outdoor pool would permanently close while new money to redevelop and expand the Hill outdoor pool would be in the queue of projects council considers in the next city budget, due next fall.
Specific locations are to be determined.
At committee, Mayor Linnsie Clark said more financial analysis is required before final decisions are made.
“It feels like a premature direction to me,” she said.
Administrators said the report found that, in general, combined facilities lower costs and can conglomerate visitors, but council will have the final say in the process.
During the election, former mayor Ted Clugston campaigned heavily on the idea of putting an indoor pool in the south end – a longtime wish for area residents – combined with an outdoor “destination” splash pool, as well as a multiplex in the north end.
Clark, the eventual winner, and several newly elected councillors campaigned that the concept should be re-examined. After the election, the Moose Rec and Crestwood Rec Centre were reopened with reserve funding for operations and capital upgrades at the hockey rink.
“We still know those are aging facilities and we need to talk about what their future looks like,” said James Will, the department’s managing director, at the Feb. 28 committee meeting.
If approved by council, the department would engage with stakeholders in the case of combining facilities, but immediately begin planning the demolition of Heights pool, which is the lowest-use outdoor pool. It currently drains into the storm sewer and would need $1 million in upgrades to meet environmental standards by rerouting pool water to the treatment plant.
Costing and scheduling for other facilities would follow.
Will said new south-end pool would better serve south-end residents, and could be planned to be in service in four years, likely not at the site of the South Ridge YMCA. That is owned jointly by the city and two school boards, while the YMCA operates it.
No location is set for a multiplex arena.
Both arenas set to potentially close were built in the early 1960s, as was the current space owned by the Medicine Hat curling club.
“We know the curling club has problems with its facilities, and we set (arenas) as an immediate concern,” he said.
“We know the cost is less (when twinning rinks) … and it’s more conducive to hosting tournaments. There’s a general acceptance in the community about having multiple ice-sheet facilities.”