Solid Business Case:
As you know, recreational and cultural services in Pelham was at a “log-jam” for decades. Numerous consultant reports outlined great desires and drew nice designs of community centres. However, none evaluated the operating costs nor tested the “business case.” It was like those former reports offered a “shiny new sports car” but failed to account for operating costs and whether the community could afford to “drive” it.
Despite the expressed desire – which still continues today – LeisurePlan recommended against including an indoor pool. They stated that demand for an indoor pool was only at 50% of that required to financially support it. “To be financially viable, a significant annual operating subsidy would be required from the Municipality in the order of $1,000,000 per year.” This is in line with other municipal pools; the Kiwanis Aquatic Centre in in St. Catharines, for example, costs $1.6 million net per year (expenses $2.36 million; revenues $734K). An extra $1 million for an indoor pool would mean about a 9% increase in property taxes for the average residential property, plus another 3% for financing the construction costs. (Please see pages 48-49 of the St. Catharines 2017 budget by clicking here.)
While LeisurePlan initially estimated that a second arena wouldn’t be financially sustainable until 2023, arena users questioned the completeness of their data and the Architectural Design Advisory Committee questioned the feasibility of a phased design. LeisurePlan considered the missing information and concluded in June 2015 that “a second ice pad would be utilized 69%-77% during prime time” and recommended providing a second ice pad by 2018. In July 2015, Council agreed with that recommendation and directed that the design include two arenas.
In March, the Town signed binding five-year usage agreements with local minor hockey and figure skating associations to use 100% of the Accipiter Arena and more than 90% of the Duliban Insurance Arena during prime time.
LeisurePlan initially suggested including a fitness centre in a new centre if all fitness programs were run by the YMCA. They made this recommendation because of the extensive Pelham membership at the YMCA. Listening to the concerns of the Design Committee and local businesses over this plan, the Town issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to operate the community centre to the private sector in June 2015. Since no firms replied to the RFP and because of the increased difficulty of completing with discount ($10 per month) fitness centres, the Town removed the fitness centre component from the Community Centre design, ended discussions with the YMCA in November 2015, and will operate the facility for less than $200,000 per year.
I am pleased that we are constructing the Pelham Community Centre based on a solid business case analysis and that will serve as our community’s gathering place and recreational space for people of all ages and abilities for decades to come.
You may contact Mayor Dave at email@example.com or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.