Delaying Robron field house would send ‘entirely wrong message’: mayor

City council will move ahead with a new field house at Robron Park in 2017 despite the city's heavy workload

City council will move ahead with a new field house at Robron Park in 2017 despite a warning from the city manager that the city is taking on a heavy workload.

In light of all the design works planned for various capital projects in 2017, city staff had slated construction of the field house – and the city’s $408,000 contribution – for 2018.

At Tuesday’s financial planning session, council was dismayed to see that.

“I would like to see it sooner than that,” said Coun. Marlene Wright as she put forward a motion to move that funding up to 2017. Wright noted that Rotary has already stepped up with a $100,000 contribution as have other community groups and organizations.

“It’s something we need to show them we can get done,” Wright said.

But City Manager Deborah Sargent said staff’s justification for moving the field house up one more year was to avoid unrealistic expectations.

“We do have a very ambitious capital plan; you’ve approved several design projects,” Sargent said. “We see the Robron field house absolutely as a priority for design but my concern is in putting it in the 2017 budget as a construction item that we’re setting the expectation that it will be constructed in 2017 and given our other projects – Lower Shoppers Row, waterfront sewer forcemain, possibly a design of construction of the No. 1 Fire Hall – if it’s in the 2017 budget, I think it sets up an unrealistic expectation to the community that we’re delivering this project in 2017.”

The field house, which is expected to include change rooms, public washrooms, wheelchair access, a concession, a multi-purpose banquet room, a board room and a wrap-around deck that overlooks the Robron play fields, is an initiative of Campbell River Youth Soccer.

Seymour Pacific has chipped in detailed plans and building materials while the city has committed to pay for the installation of site services, the change rooms and public washrooms which will be available to all user of Robron Park.

Coun. Colleen Evans said that in light of the buy-in from the community, it would be wrong for the city to delay the project in any way.

“This is a partnership with the community, this is a partnership with Youth Soccer. This is an important project and my concern is if we leave that funding in 2018 it sends the wrong message and I appreciate the city manager’s comments and caution to us but there is such important work that the city needs to do in 2017,” Evans said. “There’s a lot of work outside of construction.”

Mayor Andy Adams agreed that it sends the wrong messaging to hold up the project.

“Really appreciating the comments of Ms. Sargent as to capacity but there’s no question that our number one priority for 2017 is the water supply project but after that, council has given very clear direction that Big Rock Boat Ramp and Robron field house are priorities,” Adams said. “And with Youth Soccer having a major fundraiser on Feb. 4, for us to then move this to 2018 is sending entirely the wrong message and killing the momentum of the fundraising that the community is providing.”

Council in the end voted in favour of moving the $408,000 for the field house to 2017.

While the project build is being fundraised by Campbell River Youth Soccer, the association intends to turn the field house over to the city for ownership and operation.

The city has projected an annual operations budget of $75,000 which includes maintenance and operations staff, security, and utilities such as electrical, water, heat and insurance.