By COLLIN GALLANT on July 19, 2023.
One city councillor is questioning why the city has purchased the Medicine Hat Curling Club without a set plan of what to do with it, while others suggest that will be determined later this summer.
Council agreed on Monday to a club proposal to acquire the building – which sits on city land – to pay for repairs while city staff alluded to a potential new curling club in an upcoming recreation capital plan.
Coun. Andy McGrogan voted against the proposal arguing that the club’s requests are escalating, and the city is acquiring more real estate without an official end goal.
“It seems obvious that the present facility is not a viable option for the future,” said McGrogan. “If there is a plan to acquire the property for future development of that area, I’m not aware what that plan is.”
McGrogan suggested converting another rink to curling this season while a formal replacement plan is developed, but was told that would stress hockey and ringette times.
McGrogan said he respects the decision, approved 6-1 by council, but wants to find a long-term solution.
“It’s the third attempt by our administrators to find a way to make curling ice available,” he said. “All seem to increase the investment by the taxpayer.”
McGrogan is also concerned the city is acquiring too many properties, including the former Food Bank location on South Railway Street, and still holds the Monarch Theatre, without a plan or ability to dispose of them.
Other councillors say they are comfortable with the purchase and more may be decided when a long-range rec facilities plan is presented later this summer.
“It’s a practical attempt to ensure curling continues in the city,” said Coun. Robert Dumanowski. “It’s fair and a reminder that for many sports were contribute in some capacity.”
Council next meets in late August, including a “committee of the whole” where members will receive and debate a long awaited “facilities for the future” report from the parks and recreation department.
Launched in mid-2021, the report aims to outline priorities for capital spending in whether to repair or replace arenas, pools and gyms, or whether to relocate or conglomerate facilities in new regional projects.
Initially, that included a potential twin-plex but without a set location, and more recently curling was included as a general topic this winter as club and city rec officials spoke this winter.
A “destination ice” facility was initially pegged in the north, near Co-op Place, though the south end, the Stampede Grounds, and even the old Medicine Hat Arena site, are now in the discussion.
“I think we still have a lot of work to do before we make a final decision,” said Coun. Allison Knodel. “I don’t think there’s a consensus yet … There are number of priorities that are important, and I don’t know if a multi-plex is the direction where we are headed.”
On Monday, council directed staff to complete an $870,000 purchase of the building once a third-party inspection had been completed on the property on Second Street in the North Flats.
That money would be used as a required matching contribution for a provincial grant toward buying new ice-making equipment and ice mats rather than replacing a slab at the 1960s era building.
Coun. Darren Hirsch has said the club should have known the slab would need replacement at the end of it’s estimated 50-year lifespan.
“Really, the original arrangement was made 70 years ago, and I’m disappointed at where we’re at, but its a shared responsibility. I’m prepared to move on with it.”
Coun. Shila Sharps said she’s confident the club will drive fundraising to cover the cost of the repairs.
“I think the curling club has been very progressive to solve this situation,”said Sharps.
A city evaluation states the building is currently in need of $10.3 million in repairs or upgrades over the next 10 years, but $4.3 million relates to slab replacement that might be avoided.
The remainder “could be reviewed so that only critical maintenance is scheduled until the building was decommissioned when a new facility is built,” it states.
There is no estimate on costs to demolish the facility.