The City of Campbell River has been working on a redesign of the Sportsplex in Willow Point for some time. The facility is aging, the services being offered there are growing in popularity and the south end of the community is growing alongside them, so that trend is likely to continue.
But the city is putting the brakes on that process while they wait to see the final plans for the other major recreation facility in town – Strathcona Gardens – and what services will be incorporated in its redesign before moving forward with what they will incorporate in theirs.
“I’m a big supporter of the Sportsplex and I absolutely agree that it needs to be expanded,” Coun. Claire Moglove said at the Committee of the Whole meeting where the decision was made to put off the design work. “It is bursting at the seams. However, we have this significant project possibly underway soon at Strathcona Gardens and depending on the design of that, it will inform what is needed at the Sportsplex.”
Not everyone on council wanted to shelf the project, however.
“We’re just talking about a conceptual design here,” Coun. Charlie Cornfield said. “We know we have to do something and it’s been in the works for ages. It’s in the budget already to do it this year and the idea is to get the project to a point, with the conceptual design finished, so that it’s shovel-ready for when any funding opportunity comes up.”
Coun. Michele Babchuk, who also serves as chair of the Strathcona Gardens Commission for the Strathcona Regional District, says the delay might not push the work out of the current budget year, anyway, as she doesn’t expect the funding announcement on the REC-REATE project to be very far off.
But Cornfield also pointed out that city staff is supposed to be working alongside SRD staff on the respective projects, so there shouldn’t be the overlap of services that others on council seem concerned about, anyway.
The rest of council, however, felt the project was simply too important to risk it.
“This is a game changer for the community, and I think it would be unwise to put any effort into any further design until we know for sure what’s going on with REC-REATE,” Coun. Colleen Evans said. “It’s just too significant of a project for our community.”
The city will also begin looking into a community-wide plan for recreation going forward, deciding that decisions surrounding recreation facilities on a case-by-case basis isn’t its best plan of attack.
Cornfield asked why that wouldn’t already fall under the parks master plan.
While many facets of community recreation and culture would fall under the parks plan, “that document is 10 to 12 years old, and there have been a lot of changes in our community in that time,” said city manager Deborah Sargent.
The business case for the new Recreation and Culture Master Plan will go to council for the 2020 budget deliberation process in December.