Penetanguishene council approves $49-million rec facility study

·4 min read

Sheets, seats and community meets were the topics raised as Penetanguishene council heard more about a proposed multi-use arena.

Steve Langois, principal planner at Monteith Brown Planning Consultants Ltd., provided council with an updated report for the new facility, which looks to replace the aging Penetanguishene Memorial Community Centre (PMCC) and Penetanguishene Curling Club (PCC).

The subject of the report is a modern, inclusive, hockey-oriented and curling-friendly multi-use facility, which could possibly host tournaments and may end up costing as much as $49.1 million.

“It’s a strategy to move forward, and what does the future look like,” Langois offered. “When we say ‘future’, it’s not five to ten years. It’s really 20 to 30 to 40 to 50 years in the future; because that’s been the lifespan that you’ve gotten out of your current facilities.”

Community engagement was the most important addition to the final report from the presentation early last month. Consultations with the public during a late June open house revealed that 80% of the community who provided input were in favour of a new build for a top-of-the-line facility.

“These are really consistent with what we heard during earlier phases of the project,” said Langois.

Nearly all respondents wanted an ice rink, with over half hopeful for a gymnasium, indoor walking track, a sports hall of fame and a large hall. Only half who replied were looking at a possible second ice rink, with even less preferring a curling facility or board room and activity studio.

Also supported by the public, according to Langois, was the former Penetanguishene Secondary School property as the favoured location of a new facility.

Langois gave a breakdown of the two existing facilities during his presentation.

The PMCC, which was built in 1954, was described as being undersized in its single ice surface compared to modern regulation-sized arenas, and despite being loved and well-used the overall building condition was rated as poor.

“Structurally, it’s not falling down today, which is the good news,” Langois said lightheartedly.

The curling club, meanwhile, was built in 1974, and is also rated as poor in its overall building condition.

Both facilities have had renovations and upgrades over the years, and are at their maximum footprint thus restricting further expansion. The cost to maintain the PMCC and PCC would be roughly $7 million, which was not recommended by the consultants, town staff or the public.

Langois further recommended that upkeep be continued for upkeep of the PMCC while a new facility is developed.

“That recognizes that this isn’t going to happen overnight. As much as we’ve heard from members of the public that they want it sooner rather than later, the reality of doing the job right requires time.

“We’ve indicated it to be a five-year time horizon; it could very well be longer depending on other aspects and decisions of council,” cautioned Langois.

Langois spoke about funding for the new facility, which is expected to range between $44.6 million to $49.1 million in today’s dollars without inflation. He stated that the pricetag was notable, but gave comfort that federal and provincial grants were not unheard of, and in most cases necessary, in helping to fund similar major capital projects in small communities like Penetanguishene.

After the presentation, council shared excited thoughts for the early days of the project, but continued to reiterate that a lot of work was yet to be done. Cost was a key concern as well.

“I have to admit that $40 million is a lot of money for a small community,” said Deputy Mayor Anita Dubeau, but reminded council that the town of Bracebridge recently received $16.9 million in provincial funding for the cost of their similar multi-use community centre project.

Coun. Jessica Klug admitted she wasn’t fully sold on the proposed $49.1 million pricetag citing “sticker shock”, but gave her support to proceed as further information from staff would provide greater scope for council.

Council unanimously carried the motion to move the arena and recreation study forward, with recommendations that staff look to return with information on the project relating to long-term financial planning and implications.

The full report for the arena and recreation centre study will be made available shortly on the Connect Penetanguishene website.

Meetings of Penetanguishene council are held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, and can be watched live on Rogers TV cable 53, or on the Rogers TV website.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca

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