Sunday, October 25, 2015

Capping the Costs for Affordable Community Centre

At the end of July, I wrote here about how Council changed gears in the design of a more affordable Multi-Faceted Community Centre (MFCC). Council considered the matter again last week and approved hiring a construction manager and capping the operating and capital costs.

You will recall that, based on a detailed business case analysis in 2013/14, the Town confirmed that “sustaining demand” for a MFCC (single-pad arena, a fitness centre, walking / running indoor track, 2,000 sq ft multi-purpose space, and double gymnasium) existed.

So, Council appointed a citizen/user-based Architectural Design Advisory Committee (ADAC) in August 2014 to help design that type of facility. In February 2015, Council agreed with ADAC’s recommendations of adding a large multi-purpose/ performing arts space (+6,000 sq ft), an atrium / shared public space (+9,600 sq ft), 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 in June, however, Council directed staff to determine potential capital and operating costs of this expanded design.

In early-July, Council agreed with a Leisureplan recommendation that, because “a second ice pad would be utilized 69%-77% during prime time,” the Town should provide a second ice pad by 2018/19.

In late-July, Council learned that no private firms wanted to operate the Centre; that a “Class-D” estimate pegged the expanded design at $54 million; and that a pro forma estimated operating costs of that design at +$500,000 per year.

Clearly the design ballooned above the initial operating and capital business case and had to be rationalized and reduced.

So, Council directed staff to refine the pro forma’s operating costs, to start develop a realistic fundraising plan, and to recommend a construction manager who would help make the design more affordable to build and operate.

When these matters arose on October 19, we took action. First, Council approved hiring Ball Construction as a construction manager to help the architect and staff to find cost efficiencies and assist in reducing the facility’s overall capital and operating costs. Second, Priorities Committee placed a $30-million capital cap and a $200,000 operating-subsidy cap on the project’s design. When we sell excess property, raise community funds, or receive government grants, those funds will make these capital costs even more affordable. Third, we directed staff to circulate this information to ADAC members.

Staff suggested that we might see the next major re-design in early 2016.

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