A recreated Strathcona Gardens would include a new aquatic centre, seating in the Rod Brind’Amour Arena and other improvements, according to design plans.
On Thursday afternoon, the Strathcona Regional District board got a closer look at schematic designs from HCMA Architecture + Design for a renewed recreation centre, a project otherwise known as REC-REATE.
“They’ve done an incredible job to bring us to the point we are today,” SRD manager of strategic initiatives Victoria Smith told the board.
At the board meeting, staff presented directors with an overview of proposed changes, which include a new pool, fitness and wellness centre, improvements and upgrades to the ice facilities, improved parking and drop-off locations, change rooms, storage areas and public spaces. The refurbished Arena #1 would include seating for 2,000 along with standing room area that could accommodate 600-800 people.
“It’s lovely and all-encapsulating and really moves us from just being about a recreation centre that’s about a pool and an arena, and talks about it more as a holistic community hub where people gather,” Smith said.
HCMA included ideas from the public into the designs through a lengthy input process, with some people saying they did not want another “Band-aid” approach for the site.
“This project has been several years in the making,” Smith said. “You have very high numbers in support.”
During a presentation, Smith provided responses from the public through surveys, focus groups, interviews and open houses that showed most people are connected to the facility: 97 per cent feel it has an important role in providing recreation opportunities; 95 per cent of households with children at home use it; and 90 per cent currently take part in events or programming.
“This is one of the things that, as chair of the Strathcona Gardens Commission, I am very proud of,” said SRD Chair Michele Babchuk.
One challenge though will be increasing costs. Smith said the last time she presented following a feasibility study, the cost came in at approximately $47.8 million, though this did not include any allowance for future cost escalation. Based on changes to the way the project has been estimated to include more detail, along with increased labour and material costs, the total estimate is now just over $62 million.
“What’s particularly giving us some issue is the market conditions,” Smith said.
For example, changes in the labour market for construction from only one year would add an additional $4.8 million to the project. On top of this, recent tariffs – for example, on steel – will add an additional $2.8 million.
To pay for this, the SRD already has put aside $5.7 million reserve funds. It will also apply for infrastructure grant money available through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program – British Columbia, which could cover roughly 73 per cent of the project. At the meeting, the board passed a motion to submit an application for the money to meet a deadline in early 2019.
“We’re well-positioned with all the work done to date,” Smith said.
As an alternative, the SRD has a scaled-down “fallback” version, estimated at $49.4 million, which would see delays on some of the major renovations until later rounds of grants. Both the full schematic design and the fallback version would require the same annual debt repayment, though over different terms. The full project would be over paid out over 24 years versus nine for the scaled-down version.
Smith noted if the SRD takes a “do-nothing” approach, the community can still expect to need as much as $18 million to replace the existing pool, which faces issues such as leakage.
Babchuk added that through the REC-REATE process, it became clear a new facility, rather than a revitalized Strathcona Gardens, would bring escalating costs that could run as high as $180 million.
“Through all of this, we did take a look at what a whole brand-new facility might look like, and it became very apparent very quickly that that was being unpalatable to the community,” she said. “I am very happy with what HCMA has come up with here.”