Sunday, July 26, 2015

Designing an Affordable & Desirable Community Centre

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote here about how Council wanted more information and took a pause in the design of a potential new Multi-Faceted Community Centre (MFCC). Council received that information last week and changed gears a little to design a more affordable facility.

You will recall that, based on a detailed business case analysis, the Town confirmed that sustaining demand for a MFCC (single-pad arena, a fitness centre, walking / running indoor track, multi-purpose space, and gymnasium) existed in 2014.

So, Council appointed a citizen/user-based Architectural Design Advisory Committee (ADAC) in August 2014 to help design this type of facility. In February 2015, Council agreed with ADAC’s recommendations of adding a large multi-purpose/ performing arts space, an atrium / shared public space, and +1,200 spectator/arena seats.

Council also agreed with ADAC’s later recommendations to 1) re-evaluate the business case for building a twin-pad arena during the initial build (instead of after 2023), and 2) tender the operation of the potential centre to the private sector.

Concerned with the project’s affordability, Council also directed staff in June to determine potential capital and operating costs with the new design.

In early July, based on additional demand from minor hockey and the Junior B team, Council agreed with a Leisureplan recommendation that since “a second ice pad would be utilized 69%-77% during prime time” the Town should provide a second ice pad by 2018/19.

Last week Council learned some significant facts about the potential MFCC:
- While 16 firms considered the tender for the operation of the potential MFCC, none applied; (The YMCA has a pre-existing MOU so they felt that they did not require a tender submission.)
- A pro-forma statement, based on the Town staff running all programs and operations in the current facility design, estimates a very significant operating deficit (+$500K);
- A “Class D estimate” of the current design approximated $40 million in capital costs plus $14 million margins and contingencies, totalling $54 million;
- Since there are currently no Federal or Provincial grants available, the Town will continue to lobby for a policy change and for funding;
- While acknowledging many variables, staff estimated the Town’s debt tolerance level at $30 million – which would translate into a more than 10% tax increase;

After using the Creative Problem Solving process, Council directed staff to refine the pro forma to give an apples-to-apples comparison for operating costs, to start developing a realistic fundraising plan, and to retain a construction manager by the end of August to help make the design more affordable to build and operate.

I will continue to keep you informed about progress of the potential multi-purpose community centre.