By Greg Price
Whispers around the region continue to get louder over the possibility of a multi-use complex in the Taber area.
“There is currently a lot of things going on out there that we believe would best be lumped into one facility all the way around. We are looking for some input for everybody here on what your thoughts are,” said Andrew Prokop, in his opening comments on the topic to both town and M.D. councils at a joint meeting on June 21.
Cory Armfelt, CAO for the Town of Taber, indicated facilities like the curling rink, hockey arena and community centre are pushing 50 years old.
“We are looking to refresh that somehow. We are looking at things that have been done in Brooks and in Morinville that are around the $25 million cost to build a facility like that,” said Armfelt. “Whether it’s phased or done all at the same time, I think it ties into the Regional Recreation Master Plan to refresh the recreation options in Taber and surrounding communities.”
Prokop noted a major recreation project in Lethbridge which was covered 25 per cent by grant funding.
“I believe, besides ourselves, there are many other players that can be involved here which can be part of the complete concept and you may be surprised on how much money can be committed to a joint project all the way around for the benefit of the entire area,” said Prokop. “Sometimes timing is everything, and money is a big part of this. Also, how do we bring all the stakeholders together for a common vision compared to similarly-sized communities? To me it’s not just a pipe dream, it’s doable if we get the right players involved.”
Multi-use complexes in other parts of the province have included pools, arenas, meeting rooms, field houses, workout space, combative sports, and childcare facilities.
Town councillor Joe Strojwas confirmed he had heard of some buzz of people wanting to push forward new recreational facilities, but he was under the impression it was a new fieldhouse like the one that is located in Duchess, at a considerably lower price tag than what was mentioned earlier.
“It has a soccer field, a running track right beside it, a weight room on the side. That type of facility. When I hear a $25 million dollar price tag, I get a lump in my throat,” said Strojwas. “I understand it would be great to have a facility like that, but when I go see a facility like Duchess has, I think that is quite workable. We don’t need to have a Cadillac when we can have a nice Volkswagen. I’d be more in favour of that than $25 million. This is the first I’ve heard of this and I’m kind of shocked.”
Taber town councillor Mark Garner was able to visit the Duchess facility in question and was quite impressed by it, with cost estimates around the $4.2 million range.
“It’s a dry facility, so there is no ice surfaces, there’s no swimming pools there. You can use it for softball, baseball, soccer, rugby, lacrosse and something called pickleball,” said Garner. “My experience with recreation development has been when we’ve had the most success is when groups themselves come together and work a project. For example, you have Ken McDonald sports fields, the skateboard park, the change rooms out at the football field along with the lights, the spray park. Those were things that were not directed by the town, but were volunteer based and fundraised and they came about. When people come together at a grassroots level, it’s one efficiently and affordable. It’s nice to dream about having the Taj Mahal of sports facilities, but we have to seriously look at wants and needs.”
M.D. of Taber councillor Jennifer Crowson added there are also a lot of other facilities currently available that are 20 to 40 minutes away that are being underutilized.
“An example right now would be hockey facilities. Numbers are down and there’s ice that sits empty all the time. Utilize what we have and upgrade what we already have,” said Crowson.
“When you are in the City of Calgary, when you are in a tournament, you are going from one rink to the next and you are lucky if it is a 20-minute drive. It’s usually more with traffic. Highlighting some of the services that we already have would be good too.”
Whatever vision is in the future for recreation, M.D. councillor John Turcato noted with an intermunicipal recreation master plan on the horizon, it will be good to get everyone at the table including the Town of Taber M.D. of Taber, Barnwell, Vauxhall, Hays, Enchant and Grassy Lake.
“They can say what their needs are and we will know what everyone’s needs are,” said Turcato.
M.D. councillor Tamara Miyanaga chimed in saying sometimes it’s not a bad thing to dream big.
There are currently many aging facilities around the town and M.D. that have stand alone facilities with operating costs to each of them.
“I think there is value in looking at what we have. I’d hate for us to not at least evaluate where we are going to go to maintain the ice. I don’t think I am prepared to build another full-sized ice, but I would hate to see us lose what we have,” said Miyanaga. “I think at the rate we are going, those facilities are going to age out. Our rink is the envy of many even though it’s pretty old. What can we do to make it better and maybe add some dimensions around it? Sometimes I think we need to evaluate.”