By Greg Price
A vision three years in the making has finally seen some forward progress as far as support goes from governing bodies.
Numerous presentations have been made for a proposed multi-use dry sports facility and with the Recreation Master Plan finally finished and some of the priorities having synergy with the proposed facility that would meet those needs, Taber Recreation Board have dedicated to draft a letter of support for the committee with a more basic version of the facility, while suggesting town council do the same.
Multi-use sports complex committee members Graham Abela and Bruce Warkentin were on hand to present the latest outlook towards the project as both the recreation board and town council were hesitant previously to endorse the project until the findings of the Recreation Master Plan which were officially released on March 2. The duo had released its feasibility study it had commissioned from an architectural firm out of Saskatoon to the recreation board back in June 2015.
One of the scenarios in the feasibility study involved a a building that would contain an 85-by-200-foot long indoor soccer complex that would have artificial grass and under it, a core-rubber floor in the sprung structure. Football, lacrosse, major gymnastics competitions, walking paths, volleyball, basketball and tennis were various other activities committee members mentioned in the past the complex could be used for along with non-sports activities in the plethora of activities that could take place in the venue like concerts and meetings etc.
Once the authoritative bodies give the committee the permission to build the structure, Abela estimated 12-16 months for construction completion. Numbers at the time that were bandied about with various scenarios had a multi-use complex costing anywhere from $3 to $14 million.
“Is there anything to add or to subtract with all the information that we have? Is the scale the same? We’ve heard so many different dollar figures at one time. You guys hit three levels from what I can see of our top 16 (in the Recreation Master Plan) which I think is fantastic if we can check three of those things off in one building,” said Luke Wijna, recreation board chairman in an opening statement to the multi-use complex committee.
Abela appreciated the recreation board for reaching out to the committee once again, who have been eager to see a public sign of support from the town for the project so they could proceed to the next step in trying to make the vision a reality.
“We had been waiting for some time for the results of the Recreation Master Plan. We heard loud and clear from this group and from the community what the issues and concerns were. I can tell you this, times are not good economically to be building to a level that we first envisioned,” said Abela in opening statements of the delegation. “We’ve visioned big, that’s always been my motto. We came back to reality and in our study presented a few different options. We as a group realized we are going to have to do it bare bones to make this type of complex move forward.”
Other input the committee has heard is that the organization itself can help run the facility to keep labour costs down and that big tax increases to fund the facility would not be acceptable.
“We have come to a conclusion that if we want to move forward, we have to go back to a very basic structure. That of course drops the price tag tremendously,” said Abela. “The feasibility study we brought forward still has a lot of merit. The merit it has speaks to users, it speaks to possibilities. Some of those change when we decrease in size. So the flexibility is reduced somewhat, for example, if we don’t have a climbing wall then the climbing wall people aren’t going to be happy. But, if we look at a field where we have 80-by-200 feet of playing surface in the complex with a walking track around it with basic facilities for changing and a concession possibly, our costs go way down.”
Abela admitted some frustration on the committee’s side with how long its vision has been put in limbo to be able to move forward with its next step in planning if it can indeed become a reality.
“The big issue for me is we still have a tremendous amount of unknowns. But, we are at a point where we can’t continue to investigate further without at least support of this board to move forward, so that we can go to our granting and other organizations to say we have support from the rec board and we have support from the Town of Taber to apply for those grants. Let’s have this come to fruition.”
Abela noted there have been others on the committee that have suggested pitching their idea elsewhere in southern Abela, but that he’d prefer the complex be built in Taber.
“I’m a Taber boy, this is my home. My personal feeling is that this is where it should be,” said Abela. “But those feelings are also out there. I don’t want that to be seen as any form of pressure. It’s not in any way whatsoever. It’s just there are other entities that may welcome this. We will need to go to that next place if this is not successful here.”
Warkentin added it was never the committee’s intent to have the recreation board/town council unilaterally endorse and foot the cost of building the project.
“All we ask is, is this something philosophically the town could get behind so that we can go to the next step to figure out if this is even doable,” said Warkentin. “We have done a feasibility study, but it’s not at the calibre of what it needs to be to have a yes-or-no decision. Without going to the next step, I don’t expect anyone to support the building of the project. All we are asking for is the approval so that we can go to that next level where you are doing full-blown feasibility and looking at grant options.”
Board chairman Wijna informed the committee his moment of pause at first was that if a facility was going to be built, that it was so huge, it would end up back to the town as an entity and to pay for it would require highly escalated user fees that would make it difficult for families to afford.
“I want recreation so that our soccer players, swimmers, whoever can go and do their sports pursuits and it doesn’t become so big that they can’t afford it,” said Wijna.
Danielle Hansen, recreation board member, noted the Taber Gymnastics Club was in the same situation where its dream for its new building was a much grander scale than the one that was eventually built at 5336 48th Avenue. A decision now in hindsight she is glad that was made.
“The first option seemed so huge that I couldn’t wrap my mind around it with how high the user fees would have to be on that. I want you guys to succeed, it’s a great venture,” said Hansen. “If you are the user group that is going to run the facility, coming from a gymnastics perspective, it’s going to be a lot easier to maintain that building if you only have to run one or two sports in that building as opposed to all of them. That would put a lot of strain on a volunteer board. For us at the beginning there could have been pitfalls. We had a pretty big Taj Mahal building (first asked for). In the end we have a really nice building now where we didn’t have to increase user fees.”
Board member Darcy Firth admitted his concern being a multi-use facility would be so grand in scheme it would take away from existing facilities.
“I was happy to see you guys were willing to downscale it, too. The building you guys had, it could encompass so different groups and things to do in there. We would have one building that is well used, but 10 buildings we already had that just got wiped out. Downscaling it could make it successful and make our other buildings successful as well.”
The recreation board unanimously passed a motion for administration to draft a letter of support from the board in principle, of the multi-use sports complex and advise council of its support so that the committee can proceed to seek grant options.