Penetang arena future remains up in the air, pending study

·3 min read

There is strong support to build a new recreation centre in the community, says a consultant's report presented to update council of the second stage of an arena and recreation study.

Plans for a refurbished Penetanguishene Memorial Community Centre (PMCC) or a new replacement facility should be fluid enough to incorporate a pool and a fitness centre in the future, some politicians say.

That was a sentiment expressed at town council's last meeting, during which Steve Langlois, of Monteith Brown Planning Consultants, presented data gathered following the completion of the second phase of the arena and recreation centre study.

The possibility of a pool and fitness centre was floated by Coun. Brian Cummings.

"As far as local clubs and fitness centres closing and Waypoint, I'm not sure how long is that an option for us to use," he said. "Is this plan fluid enough to include say, for instance, a pool or a fitness centre?"

Cummings was referring to the town's agreement with the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health to use its pool for the municipal aquatics program, said Sherry Desjardins, director of recreation and community service.

The program is currently on hold due to the pandemic. Once the facility gives the town a green light to resume the program, staff will re-evaluate the feasibility of restarting the program, considering the status of the pandemic.

Langlois told council at the meeting that the study doesn't necessarily say no to features such as a pool, but it gives council advice on how to get 66 years out of the facility that comes after the PMCC.

"One of our guiding principles was to be flexible," he said. "If you're looking at a new location, we would always recommend that expansion potential exist."

However, Langlois added that pool costs tend to start at $10 million to $15 million and require $500,000 a year to operate.

"That puts in perspetive the agreement you have with Waypoint," he said. "If it falls off the table in future, you want to have those opportunities."

Coun. George Vadeboncoeur asked if the Brian Orser Hall had been mentioned.

"I didn't hear anything mentioned about the Brian Orser Hall, the banquet facility in the upper floor of the current arena," he said.

Langlois said it's a crucial space in the community.

"It has its users and serves as the community's largest gathering space," he said. "It will be looked at through multi-purpose program space. It would have a different vibe and function than a hall."

The study has so far identified needs of the community and will eventually work towards providing an assessment of options satisfying those needs, said Langlois.

Some of the feedback received during the public consultation phase was to maintain/retrofit the PMCC. Another suggestion was to maintain the current facility but also to build a new rec centre, without curling. Further options included decommissioning the current PMCC and building a new facility either with or without a curling rink.

There was overall strong support for a new rec centre, said Langlois. Satisfaction with the current arena is mixed and the study is currently not considering an indoor pool facility or fitness centre.

"Think beyond the rink, multi-use and multi-generational hub, accommodating a wider variety of opportunities under one roof," said Langlois. "We want to put your needs first, but also look at cross-pollination opportunities. We also want to explore tourist and sports opportunities but not at the expense of local users."

Before a final draft proposal is submitted to council, Monteith Brown has to go through a final needs analysis, evaluate the various options, develop a business plan, and conduct a location assessment.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com