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Added footage means added cost for Community and Recreation Centre

'Now we’re at 85-thousand square feet, we estimate the cost today to be between 32 and 34 million dollars'

North Bay City Council now has a clearer vision of the look and cost of the proposed Community and Recreation Centre to replace the aging Sam Jacks West Ferris arena.

The architectural firms of MJMA based out of Toronto and Mitchell Jensen Architects, a local firm, made a presentation to update council on their design changes.

“And to remind council that we are three months away from the finish line on our construction documents. Obviously none of us anticipated a pandemic, but this design team has been committed to delivering the contract that we said we would. So whatever council wants to do with the documents that we have, we are going to be ready for it,” said Marc Downing senior associate at MJMA in making his presentation to council.

The intent is for the project to be shovel ready for October of 2020.

“Shovel ready means we have a complete set of tenderable construction documents by October.”

The new estimated construction cost of the twin pad multi-use facility is in the $32 million to $34 million range.

“When we initially presented the project in January, our cost estimate indicated that the building would be $390 a square foot, which at 74,600 square feet, we estimated the cost to be in a range between 29 and 31 million,” said Downing.

“Now we’re at 85-thousand square feet, we estimate the cost today to be between 32 and 34 million dollars. We have over the course of the past few months brought the cost per square foot of the building down to $380 a square foot.  Because we are in the phase of the project where we’re producing construction documents, we have more accurate documents than we had in January.”

City engineer John Severino explained that the city has applied for funding through ICIP-Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program in the community, culture, and recreation stream.

“When the project was initially being contemplated back in 2018 and 2019, there were no grant programs,” said Severino.

“The council of the day made decisions to start the process and make provisions within our budget to fully fund it municipally.”

The city will find out this fall if is it meets the eligibility requirements for ICIP funding.

“Some of the geotechnical work, the award of the engineering and architectural, that is ineligible,” said Severino.   

Based on the high-end cost estimate of $34.3 million, the breakdown for ICIP funding could see a federal government contribution of $12.9 million, and a provincial contribution of  $10.76 million, leaving the municipality to pay $10.7 million.

Should another infrastructure stimulus package be announced, the city will make an application to it too, hoping to qualify for one of them.  

“People are speculating the federal government and the province will try to stimulate the economy and have an infrastructure stimulus program, where there would be one-third, one-third, one-third expectations. But again, that is strictly speculation,” said Severino.

Following the presentation, deputy mayor Tanya Vrebosch called the project design progressive and efficient.   

“If you’re going to do something, do it right the first time. We’ve seen it before where we are trying to shave off a million dollars and say, ‘We’ll do that piece later’ and sometimes it never happens like the changerooms at Omischl,” said Vrebosch.

“The longer we wait, the more it is going to cost. But if the federal and provincial funding doesn’t come through, the public needs to know that we will look at it again.”

Downing said the plan is to build a true community centre, not just an arena.

“What we really need here is for each of the spaces in the project to do many things. We don’t have any spaces in this building that are single purpose,” said Downing.

“And we need it to be a multi-season building. This building is in the middle of an existing sports park, so this really isn’t about an arena project. This is about a flexible multi-use community centre project.”

The architect said the design has been refined and improved upon since the last presentation to council and public open house in January.

“All of the work we are doing with this facility is with this idea that we cannot do anything extravagant here. We cannot do anything that we are considering extra. We are only interested in providing you with the building that you need, with the building you want,” said Downing.

“We’re looking for durability, energy efficiency, sustainability, robust and beautiful materials but nothing extravagant. So, these are the values we’re trying to inject into this design process.”

The unique shape of the building is meant to fit in with the natural setting of the property where it will sit, adjacent to the Omischl Sports Complex.  

“We referred to it in the last council meeting as a trident shaped plan. A three-pronged plan. Two of the forks of the trident are the arenas. And the third is this multi-use space. And that is the space that really connects the building to the sports fields,” said Downing.

“There is this sense of openness, lots of natural light, great view of the sports fields and overhangs, exterior covered space around that multi-purpose space that allows the community to collect around the building outdoors.”

Downing explained the positioning of the building was also to minimize blasting.

“And we wanted to minimize disruption of existing vehicular traffic routes. All of these things played out in the way we positioned the building on the site.”

Continuing with the plan to make the space as flexible as possible, the community room meeting space which has a kitchen with a divider can be converted into two spaces.

“That space could be a tournament meeting room. It could be informal seating for viewing the ball diamonds beyond the building. It could be used for yoga classes, a senior’s space,  it could be dryland training for various teams. It could be a meeting place for field sports users before they head out for a tournament. It could be a pop-up market venue. It goes on and on. These are things we heard from stakeholders and community groups.”  

More square footage has been added to give the centre the space needed to function as a multi-use facility.   

“In the intervening months, much of what we heard from the citizens, from council and from our internal design team in the city, was that we actually did need to add back in some spaces that were important,” said Downing.

“Some of the spaces include gender-neutral referee change rooms, storage space for community associations, an operations work shed for field staff. Again, it is a reminder that the building isn’t just about ice, it is about the entire sports park that already exists. ”

Included in the design from the very beginning is a walking track in the upper level overlooking the” tournament rink” with elevator access.  

“Those spaces tend to already be lofty spaces, so it is not like we’re adding another floor onto the building just to have the walking track. The space that it is in, is already there,” said Downing.  

“Walking tracks are so popular with senior groups and parents who are watching a game or practice or figure skating on the ice surface below. It is just such a great amenity. Any discussion on removing it to save some money was not a popular discussion.”

A universal washroom will be located at the track level, and a universal washroom with an adult change table will be located on the main level.

It was suggested the multi-season approach could see one ice pad being used for an RV and boat show, with ice sports in the other, and presentations and lectures going on simultaneously in the multi-purpose room.

The design team has added a changeroom to each ice pad for a combined total of 14.  

Both ice pads are regulation NHL size.

“Those changerooms convert into field changerooms for the warm season. So, a 20-person hockey changeroom connects to the adjacent changeroom and turns into a 40-person football team changeroom. We’re trying to make every space in this building convertible and flexible.”

The plan calls for additional seating in and around the rinks.

“We heard that loud and clear from a number of groups. And that does contribute in a small way to the increase,” said Downing.

“The south rink is what we will call the tournament rink. That is the rink with the walking track hovering above it, and with the larger number of spectator seats. So, in that rink we have 330 bench seats, we have 35 dedicated seats in the lobby of the building for warm viewing, and we have 450 standing room positions, and we have included accessible seating positions throughout all of those spaces. If we add all of those up, the total capacity for the tournament rink would be 830.”

The circumference of the walking track is included in the standing room calculations.  

“The north rink, sometimes referred to as the practice rink offers 170 bench positions, 10 warm viewing positions dedicated in the lobby, and 64 standing room positions and seven accessible positions, meaning dedicated wheelchair positions.”

Additional changes include a transit loop, and room for tournament bus parking.

The matter has now gone back to committee for further discussion.

 “Our preference is that council gets behind us on getting this project shovel ready and that we all act quickly and responsibly if there are any adjustments to the design that are required,” said Downing.

“We hope that this presentation indicates to council how seriously we have taken their concerns, and how seriously we have taken the concerns of the stakeholders and the public groups that we’ve met. We’re confident that we have responded as best we can to everything we’ve heard and what we would really love to hear if possible is ‘Yes the city is North Bay is committed to having a shovel ready project for October and the design team, full speed ahead.’”