Councillors approved proceeding to detailed design on $16.5 million multiplex

Sylvan Lake councillors unanimously approved the next step towards a $16.5 million multiplex to replace the existing arena

Sylvan Lake councillors unanimously approved the next step towards a $16.5 million multiplex to replace the existing arena but the project could be derailed at a future stage if community fundraising falters.

At their meeting Monday, they approved the functional design for a facility that would include replacement of the current arena, a four lane running track, expanded front entry with concession, meeting room space, community organizations’ administration space, child activity area, leasehold space, seniors’ centre and civic event centre. They also set the total project cost at $16.5 million and directed administration to request proposals for architectural services to proceed to detailed design work and cost estimation based on those parameters.

This was the concept presented to the public during an open house last month and for which a survey was conducted on the town’s website. Although the open house was poorly attended “with approximately 12 citizens attending”, Ron Lebsack, director of leisure and protective services, said they received about 175 responses from the online survey.

In his report to council, Lebsack stated the funding model being proposed is a maximum $14.5 million from town funds (including an estimated $9 million debenture) and the remaining $2 million to be raised from user groups, sponsorships and fundraising. “The seniors association has also committed to the capital project of their space as they have Alberta Lottery Funds dedicated to a new facility and would contribute funds from the sale of their existing building.”

Lebsack indicated council will still have to approve the project at each stage. The next stage is to approve terms of references for a multiplex redevelopment task force, a multiplex redevelopment fund development committee and form the committees. Then council will have to approve the architect and award the contract for architectural services. Next on the list is approving detailed design and releasing tender documents. At that stage a refined project cost estimate will be provided and a review of fund development efforts will take place. Then finally, council would need to approve a general contractor and award a contract for construction.

Reviewing the questionnaire the town used, Councillor Rick Grimson said, “it seems there’s a question missing – Are you a resident and are you willing to see your taxes go up to support this project?”

He spoke about delaying a decision since council will be dealing with a proposal to purchase land for another community recreation hub early in the new year. “I’d like to wait,” he said questioning the advisability of committing to one project without knowing how much money will be needed for the other.

“We’ve been two years in the process. There’s been a lot more than just the survey,” said Councillor Dale Plante. “There has been a lot of discussion around the options. I think it’s absolutely a waste if we didn’t move forward at least to the next stage.”

Councillor Graham Parsons indicated he’s “a little concerned about apathy” surrounding the project. “I’m there (in the arena) all the time and there isn’t a big buzz.” He added, “we have to make it very clear we’re moving one step at a time, especially when it comes to the fundraising project. If the money doesn’t get raised the project doesn’t go ahead. Every step of the way there’s the possibility of stalling, or killing, or moving ahead.”

“This is something we need to take action on,” said Councillor Sean McIntyre. He indicated the need for haste is driven by the lifespan of the current facilities. “The arena is short years away from the end of its lifespan.”

Mayor Susan Samson agreed to moving ahead. “The seniors are going over there, we could lose that if we drag our heels.” She added the town is building the multiplex just to fill the needs of today’s community. “That’s why I feel compelled to keep moving the project ahead. We have options for the second long-term recreation hub to manage (it’s purchase) financially. The only way this is going to go away is if the community doesn’t embrace it with support and fundraising efforts.”

Councillors Ken MacVicar and Laverne Asselstine were absent from the meeting.