Park board urges support behind centre

Proponents of Park Community Centre, whose future has been contested by residents and elected officials alike, are hoping to rally support for the facility tonight to prevent a dismal conclusion to a years-long saga.

The future of the centre will be up for discussion at a Ward 2 meeting hosted by Coun. Kris Desjarlais at the facility today at 6:30 p.m.

Park Community Centre was condemned to demolition in 2019 after a Recreation and Community Facilities Master Plan found the city had too many community centres and the number of centres should be trimmed to five. Since then, the fate of the facility has flip-flopped many times.

In July 2021, after lengthy debate, Brandon City Council decided to cancel the proposed destruction of the centre and proceed with either a renovation or replacement of the building. But a separate report suggested the facility was too damaged to repair and wouldn’t be worth the money.

After the city issued a request for proposals last June to demolish and replace Park Community Centre, it received three bids that were discussed at a council meeting earlier this month. However, city staff recommended to city councillors that a contract shouldn’t be awarded for the work due to insufficient funds.

The three bids varied in price from $1.5 to $1.8 million, although only $1.2 million had been set aside for the project.

“Reallocating the necessary $300,000 to the Park Community Centre reconstruction will defer several green space developments projects and bring the reserve to a negative balance in 2025,” a city document stated.

Council members ultimately voted to defer a decision on the future of Park Community Centre to March.

Since then, the city’s parks and recreation department has been “jerking around” the community centre’s board, said member Eldon Schmitz, who is hoping residents will rally behind the centre at tonight’s meeting.

“If they care about our community centre, they should come out and voice their opinion,” he said.

Schmitz accused the city of prioritizing other projects in Brandon over community centres, which has been frustrating for the Park board, he said. Demolishing but not replacing the facility would be a huge blow to the community, he added. Currently, the centre is booked at least 15 days of the month, every month, and is used by various community groups.

“People have birthday parties, graduation parties … just everything [there],” Schmitz said.

The Sun contacted Desjarlais as well as the City of Brandon for comment but didn’t receive a response by press time.

Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun