INNISFAIL – The town’s multiplex dream project – the most talked about civic issue in the upcoming municipal election - has entered a critical stage with current council expressing tacit approval for a scaled-down version close to where the Arena is today.
On Sept. 13, council was told in a presentation by Michael Rivest, an architect with HCMA, that a new modified version could come with a price tag of just over $41 million instead of the original one at more than $65 million, and still meet all the recreational and wellness needs for the community.
He told council that workshop meetings with the curling and shuffleboard association officials were “eye opening” as they said a new facility was not required as the existing building was meeting their needs and there was still a lot of life left in it.
“This was quite instrumental because from council’s previous mandate we were really looking for efficiencies in how we could bring down that budget and to hear specifically from the stakeholders and the users of the curling building that a new facility is not required,” said Rivest. “We really saw this as a step that does need to occur in this revised and reduced multiplex, and we should really plan around keeping and maintaining the curling centre.”
The process to get to this current stage has been about two years in the making, with the town first looking at how best to upgrade the Innisfail Aquatic Centre, and then taking a more thorough look at the recreational and wellness needs for the community.
There are now five different options the town can still consider, including renovating the aquatic centre, giving it an addition, building a new aquatic centre at its existing site, and building a large multiplex.
The fifth option is the recently unveiled scaled back multiplex, which council was told was only half the area size as the full multiplex plan.
Instead of connecting the new facility with the Arena it is now presented as a two-story standalone building. It leaves out a new curling rink. The field house would have just one single soft turf field, unlike the first version that had two side-by side. The proposed aquatic program has not changed from the earlier plan and will include a 25-metre, six-lane lap pool, beach-entry leisure pool with a shallow zone for toddlers, large hot pool and a water slide.
Another change from a full multiplex build is the removal of dedicated childcare program space. Relying on workshop feedback, the HCMA report said the facility will only require the use of a multipurpose room that can be programmed for children's programming and events. Wellness, however, remains the central theme for the design of the revised multiplex proposal. The plan envisions a wide range of therapeutic and leisure activities.
Following Rivest’s presentation council approved the pre-design report as information. It will be up to new council on whether to proceed with the scaled back multiplex plan or one of the other four options.
“I think our next step has to be, OK, if we are going to take on a $40 million project how do we finance it? We have to get more serious on the availability of grants and fundraising before future council can make any decisions,” said Romane. “We can only talk about it for long until it comes down to the crunch and OK, how do we pay for this thing? How do we do this?”
Todd Becker, the town’s chief administrative officer, said administration has been working on the financing issue, including what the town needs to do for debenture payments.
“That work has started,” he said. “We certainly need to hear from new council on confirming this is a priority, and then advance our corporate tools to help with that conversation with council once that process has started.”
Meghan Jenkins, the town’s director of community services, said the pre-design report will be taken to the new council early into its new mandate to familiarize them with what has been accomplished to date, and to get direction on how and when to proceed with any of the project’s five options.