A draft report for an arena and recreation centre was presented to Penetanguishene council earlier this week, which could lead to the construction of a new multi-use facility in the next decade and decide the fate of the aging curling rink and arena.
The study focused on building a new recreation centre estimated to cost between $35 million to $50 million, while exploring the upkeep of the Penetanguishene Memorial Community Centre (PMCC) built in 1954 and the Penetanguishene Curling Club (PCC) built in 1973.
Draft images showing the recommended option of a two-level 800-to-1000 seat spectator area and curling club were provided to council as part of the presentation by Steve Langois of Monteith Brown Planning Consultants Ltd. The cost of building a new top-of-the-line facility to fully replace the PMCC and PCC with modern amenities was projected to cost $49 million with operating costs around $400,000 annually.
Such a modern facility would require a single-pad ice rink with up to 1,000 seats, an indoor walking track, a multi-purpose program space for amenities like a gymnasium or large hall similar to the Brian Orser Hall, a sports hall of fame and many other spaces that can be found in multi-use recreation centres.
The inclusion of a five-sheet curling rink, which could convert to a second hockey pad was presented to council as a consideration, depending on whether the PCC would remain open or close down. The cost of building the new facility without closing the PCC was estimated at only $36.7 million, but the annual operating costs would remain the same as a fully-built facility.
“Ultimately, the option that you choose will have to do with (the PCC’s) willingness and needs moving forward,” said Langois.
The consultant recommended the new centre be developed at 51 Dunlop Street, where the former Penetanguishene Secondary School (PSS) is slated for demolition later this summer.
Other suggested locations included town-owned Ojibwa Landing and privately-owned 905 Fuller Avenue, as well as privately-owned lands adjacent to Georgian Village. However, the former high school property was ranked highest in criteria of availability and compatibility along with expansion and amenity opportunities within the report's ranked assessment, scoring 91 overall out of a total 100 on the chart.
“This is not happening overnight,” mused Langois. “In most communities that we work in, these are five- to 10-year projects.”
According to the report, the PMCC has exceeded its lifespan and would not be recommended as an option to maintain along with the PCC at a cost of $7 million with annual operating costs averaging $280,000 per year, due to the aging infrastructure.
“Option 1 is the most different from the others,” Langois explained. “This is the status quo, investing in (the PMCC and PCC) based on the audit work completed recently.
"It is $7 million between those two facilities to just deal with lifecycle repair and replacement. It doesn’t include any upgrades, improved seating, more change rooms, more parking, larger ice surface or adding dry-land space. None of that would be included; it’s keeping the lights on and keeping it active.
“Any reinvestment would require the same functionality and level of service; it is not feasible to expand. So this is a question… it’s not a matter of ‘if’, it’s a matter of ‘when’,” reasoned Langois in his presentation.
Both Deputy Mayor Anita Dubeau and Mayor Doug Leroux asked Langois about the cost of improving the PMCC bringing it up to modern accessibility and building code standards.
Langois responded by stating that any major redevelopment would trigger a fully barrier-free facility, citing turning radius of corridors, door widths, and level changes as just a few obstacles.
"You’d really have to tear it down and start from scratch at that stage," he said.
The next recommendations would be to develop a funding strategy as well as establishing a capital reserve; establish a building committee to oversee the project; and to determine involvement from the PCC and other major partners while soliciting proposals from new partners.
“And then closing the PMCC as an ice venue when the new recreation centre opens,” concluded Langois. “This is, as they say, ‘ripping the Band-Aid off’. This is not in-addition-to, this is in-replace-of as you think beyond the rink and try to create a true community hub.”
A virtual public input session is scheduled to be held through Zoom on June 23 at 7:00 p.m. with attendees needing to pre-register through the Connect Penetanguishene website, or by contacting recreation and community services admin Angele Proulx at (705) 549-7453 or by email.
The full draft of the arena and recreation centre study is available 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