By Chad Ingram
Published Nov. 2 2017
Minden Hills council is supporting a recommendation from the township’s arena task force to proceed with a major renovation of the Minden Hills Community Centre and S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena.
Councillors resolved during an Oct. 26 meeting to put out a request for proposals (RFP) for engineering and architectural services to see what types of renovations the facility is capable of withstanding.
“We need to have the services of an engineering firm technically to analyze where the building is at what types of things that we can do” said Mayor Brent Devolin.
A second RFP for the actual construction of the project will be released once the engineering and architectural work is done.
The township’s arena task force conducted a public consultation in 2016 which included issuing a survey to residents and hosting two public input sessions. Members also reviewed a 2014 engineering report on the facility and visited recreation facilities in a number of other small communities in Ontario including Fenelon Falls Ennismore Lakefield and North Kawartha.
Members of the task force were Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin councillors Ron Nesbitt and Lisa Schell and community members Peter Oyler Dwight Thomas and Jim Garbutt.
It was determined that a completely new facility with an estimated price tag of $10 million to $12 million was outside of the township’s financial capabilities.
Devolin said the work that will be done wouldn’t prevent the addition of facilities such as a swimming pool or walking track in the future.
“The redesign and refurbishment of it doesn’t preclude anything” he said. “There will be opportunity for public input to us along the way.”
What is being recommended is a renovation worth up to $6.5 million that would include an energy-efficient ice plant lighting and HVAC system; single-sided seating; a relocation of the scorekeeper’s box and penalty boxes; new changerooms and repurposing of old change rooms for storage etc.; a multi-purpose gymnasium; relocation of community services department offices from the back to the front of the building; and an enlarged staff room. The current staff room holds six people.
It is expected the changes would extend the life of the building by 30 years.
While she said she appreciated some of the energy-efficient aspects of the renovation such as a new ice plant Councillor Pam Sayne said she didn’t think what is being recommended goes far enough in terms of environmentally sustainable technologies.
“At this point I’m not supportive of this resolution as it is” Sayne said adding she thought the project should be incorporating elements such as geo-thermal heated floors. “I feel like we’re a bit of a piecemeal in terms of when we talk about energy efficiency. I’ve been hearing more words about it than actually doing it.”
Councillor Jeanne Anthon said she would like to see an indoor walking track included in the project.
“I am expressing interest in the walking track concept” Anthon said adding such an amenity would be a valuable asset in a community with an aging population. “I think that could be a very important addition to a gymnasium and in my view probably not expensive. It doesn’t have to be a raised one. I’m hoping that’s going to be on the table for future considerations.”
Councillor Ron Nesbitt said he was also supportive of the inclusion of a walking track.
Some facilities have indoor tracks suspended from beams above recreational areas.
“I think the intent with the RFP for the engineering is any of those types of things we’ve heard loud and clear we have a great long winter here” Devolin said adding he knew indoor recreational opportunities were important to residents. “Walking is a great one that will have great value in the proposals that will come forward we’ve heard that loud and clear.”
An Oct. 12 report from community services director Mark Coleman had indicated that after study it did not seem that facilities such as an indoor pool or walking track were financially viable for Minden Hills.
“Through the public consultation process inquiries were received about the potential renewal of the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena and community centre to include additional facilities such as an indoor pool fitness room and indoor walking track to further enhance the multi-purpose use of the overall facility” that reports reads. “Following the public consultation process the arena task force and staff did take additional time to research and review other multi-purpose facilities throughout the province and user stats from other local arenas. A list of research documents that the arena task force reviewed and considered are provided at the end of this report. A review of those types of facilities local studies and financial implications suggests they are not viable at this time here in Minden Hills however may be at some point in the future as the community population and tax base grows.”
Sayne also sought clarification on what was meant by a “multi-purpose gymnasium.”
Devolin used the example of a gym in the Apsley facility the task force had visited.
“But it doesn’t have to be done the way they’ve done it” he said “is when they did their renewal apart from the ice surface they created a space in the renovation that there’s a full exercise room with equipment.”
Devolin said other facilities had room with higher ceilings to allow for activities such as basketball and racquet sports.
Council dissolved the arena task force and will strike an arena building task force. Sayne requested that a call to the community go out for task force members and a member of the public requested the building task force be more representative of the entire community noting that outside one woman the previous task force had contained mostly older white men.