A new study will re-evaluate St. Albert’s capital growth plan when it comes to recreation and cultural facilities.
The study comes as a result of several groups lobbying council for new facilities. City Manager Kevin Scoble said the best approach going forward would be to look at possible synergies between all projects, whether they are approved or not.
As part of the study, administration will look into the cost and feasibility of stand-alone single use facilities, expansion of existing assets and the construction of multi-use facilities to support each of these projects. The study will also explore different operating models, such as third party operation and partnerships.
Historically, St. Albert has taken the approach of supporting city-owned and operated recreation facilities only. Council members felt that this was a missed opportunity, especially considering the most recent proposal by Active Communities Alberta.
The non-profit organization wants to build a privately owned and operated multi-sport facility using a combination of city capital funding ($12 million and $19 million), grants and direct funding. The $33 million to $40 million facility would include two arenas, a multi-purpose gymnasium and community group space and would cost the city less than building a single ice sheet at Servus Place.
“I think this is going to provide the next council with the opportunity to be a little bit more creative in how they think of these rec facilities. They don’t always have to follow the traditional model,” said Coun. Cathy Heron.
The motion to undertake this holistic review of recreational facility planning passed unanimously.
As a result, work on the library will be pushed back until the study is presented to the next council in spring 2018.
“I have to confess being a little conflicted on this for a few reasons,” said Coun. Tim Osborne. “I think that trying to figure how these things all fit together makes perfect sense. But we also spent a lot of time earlier debating borrowing bylaws and (library) alternatives. Ultimately, if this passes what we’re saying is we’re putting things on hold for about a year.”
Prior to the completion of the study, administration will come back to council with a report on gymnastics funding models.
Coun. Cam MacKay, who put forward the motion for this additional report, said it was important for the next council to understand how other municipalities view and fund gymnastics, in order to decide how St. Albert should go forward in supporting the Dynamyx Gymnastics Club.
Administration was also directed to engage in a meeting with the St. Albert Soccer Association, ACA, Dynamyx and the City of Edmonton about cooperating on a multiplex on the lands north of the Anthony Henday. St. Albert has already engaged in discussions with SASA and Edmonton on the site.
In a presentation to council last month, ACA president Matt Bachewich told council that adding a 23,000 square-foot gymnastics facility to its plan would cost between $3 million to $5 million to build.
Scoble told council that the study could muddy the results of the ballot questions, given that the amounts will reflect stand-alone aquatic and branch library facilities.
Administration is expected to come back to council in August for funding to hire a consultant to undertake the study.