Thursday, November 9, 2017

Pincher Creek curling rink site selection proceeding

Proposed siting of new curling rink and related facilities and parking (from Town of Pincher Creek documents)

Jonathan Skrimshire - The Pincher Creek Facilities Planning Steering Committee will be recommending to Town Council that a new curling rink be constructed on Robertson Avenue, northeast of the Multi-Purpose Facility. The proposed structure is to be sited between Elm and Maple streets, aligned on a north-south axis parallel to Robertson. Parking for the facility will extend west of the building and will be conjoined with the existing east side Multi-Purpose Facility parking lot.

The siting recommendation, which will be put before Council on November 14, was selected from a number of options developed for the Committee by Talbera International Technologies, a Lethbridge engineering and consulting firm that also provided services to the Town for the Spray Park project. Considered and rejected by the Committee were options to construct the facility in the location of the existing rink, between the Arena and the disused Sobey's building, and various alternate alignments of the building in the green-space north of the Multi-Purpose Complex.

The cost of the proposed project has not yet been accurately determined. Councillor Mark Barber estimated the bill for the structure to be $2.5 - $3 million, including the ice plant, although it was unclear at the time of the meeting upon what that estimate was based. In response to a follow-up email, Diane Burt Stuckey, Director of Community Services for the Town of Pincher Creek, indicated the $2.5 - $3 million figure was provided by the Curling Club and was "based on a design and estimate they received some time ago". Talbera has not provided a cost estimate at this time but will do so once siting and design decisions solidify. The final cost will depend on whether a four or six sheet design is chosen, and upon the materials and finishes selected. "The curlers aren't looking for fancy, they're looking for function" said Mayor Don Anderberg. "It doesn't have to be the Taj Mahal."

Should the project proceed, the capital costs would be shared by the Town of Pincher Creek and the Municipal District. The funding split between the two municipalities would be subject to negotiation, but it is reasonable to expect those discussions would be informed by the actual number of town and MD residents who make use of the existing facility. As previously reported in the Pincher Creek Voice , Curling Club documents indicate that the club attracts over 500 users a month, 55 per cent of whom are MD residents.

In anticipation of a funding request from the Town, the MD sent a survey to all property owners within the district in May of this year to gauge public support for increased capital spending on recreational facilities. The results of the survey are now available on the MD website. Fifty-four per cent of respondents indicated a willingness to accept property tax increases to support new or renovated recreation facilities. However, only twenty-nine per cent responded yes when asked "Are you in favour of the MD contributing specifically to a new curling rink, at an estimated cost of $3 - $4 million dollars for the total project?".

In response to an email inquiry, Wendy Kay, Chief Administrative Officer for the MD, indicated that "The MD maintains a capital reserve account for Town recreation facilities. Annually the MD collects $45.00 per capita ($133,425) that is placed in a reserve account of the MD, for requests received from the Town for capital items." In light of residents' response to the recreation survey, it is an open question how much of that fund the MD Council will be willing to commit to the construction of a new curling facility.

The final cost to local taxpayers may be mitigated somewhat depending upon the outcome of grant applications. The Pincher Creek Curling Club was recently awarded $125,000 under the Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP) towards the purchase of a new portable ice plant, and is in the process of applying for further funding towards construction of a complete new facility. Funded by Alberta Culture and Tourism, CFEP grants provide financial assistance to build, repair, renovate, upgrade or expand sports, recreational and cultural public-use community facilities, to a maximum of $1-million. The club is currently working with the Town to fulfil the remaining requirements of the application process. CFEP will announce the next round of grants awarded to successful applicants in February 2018.

Funding is not the only challenge facing the project. Committee members also expressed concerns over the loss of the existing playing field and the impact of the siting selection on the spray park currently under construction. The playing field is regularly used for soccer and other sports activities as well as occasional special events such as music concerts. "We do lose our space for community events" said Burt Stuckey, "and I really do have concern that the spray park is getting hemmed in". The latter point is worth noting as it is possible the members of the public involved in the creation of the spray park will not react well when they discover their pet project, which was conceived as bordering upon open green space, is to become surrounded by paved parking areas.

It now falls to Town Council to weigh these various concerns and decide upon next steps for the project. The Committee's siting recommendation will be put to Council at their forthcoming public meeting, which will also host a delegation from the Curling Club. The meeting will take place at 6:00 pm Tuesday, November 14, at Pincher Creek Town Hall.

*amended with additional information

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