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City staff makes case to go ahead with arena project

In short, the staff is confident the much-delayed project should move ahead. Whether this new council agrees with them will soon be determined.
2021 07 28 Community and Recreation Centre (CNB) Goalie Glass
Courtesy of the City of North Bay

Following a request designed to get the members of the new council up to speed on the issue, the City of North Bay will present a report at a special committee meeting on Monday recommending municipal politicians "direct staff that upon completion of the assembly of construction documents to initiate the tendering for the construction of the multi-purpose community and recreation centre."

See related: Council motion seeks answers on community and recreation centre

See also: Status of community centre project to be discussed Monday

City Engineer John Severino reports, "At this time, the staff is prepared to initiate the tendering for the construction of the zero carbon multi-purpose community and recreation centre upon direction from Council."

The rising cost has always been a sticking point. Many felt the current economic conditions would push the cost well beyond the spending appetite of the taxpayers but the updated report lists the price tag at $51.6 million, a shade below the estimated $52 million cited last spring. A Class A estimate included in the report lists a construction cost of $43,531,000.

The proposed construction of what has been touted as a community and recreation centre, featuring twin ice pads, facilities to make up for the lack of change rooms at the adjacent Steve Omischl Sports Complex, community meeting spaces, and an indoor walking track among other amenities, has been a divisive issue in the city for years as the project lurched to its current state after more than a decade of input and poking and prodding by various stakeholders and special-interest groups.

A hot election topic, many acknowledge the need to replace failing infrastructure and impending ice surface deficit but many others bemoan the perceived exclusion of potential user groups beyond ice sports while others feel the project is a Cadillac when a cheaper model will suffice.

City Engineer John Severino prepared the report that will be presented to council during the special committee meeting on Monday. In it, he provides a timeline of the proposed development, found here.

The previous council ran out of time to get the project approved in the aftermath of a surprise announcement last spring from MP Anthony Rota of federal funding up to $25.77 million and approved the next steps in realizing the construction of the proposed community and recreation centre (CRC), including two new ice pads.

See also: Score! Feds give millions in funding for new Community Centre

The previous council then directed municipal staff to complete the building design to achieve the requirements for a "Net Zero Carbon" multi-purpose community and recreation centre to meet the requirements to receive the recently announced funding from the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings (GICB) program.

An additional $584,000 was approved and added to the previously awarded contract to MJMA Ltd. to complete the necessary background studies, the Net Zero Carbon Building design, construction document preparation, and building certification for the project. Council also directed staff to go to tender upon completion of those design modifications.

According to Severino's report, "Council was also informed that the added design costs are eligible costs that will be over 50 per cent funded through the GICB program. At the time it was anticipated that the updated project design would be ready to tender for construction for fall 2022 with a target for project construction to start in spring of 2023 and completion in the late fall of 2024."

Severino writes, "The updated building design to achieve the GICB requirements has been completed. The Class A Cost Estimate of the community centre construction has also been completed. The preliminary capital financing plan based on the Class A Cost Estimate has been completed. Future operating forecasts for the project have been completed based on the City’s experience operating current facilities and utility cost modelling for the new facility."

Estimated costs of the project, based on the Class A Cost Estimate, costs incurred to date and estimated costs for allowances such as furniture, fixtures and
equipment, permitting, operating supplies and equipment, preliminary design and project support etc. are summarized below.

  • Architectural & Engineering Services $2,520,500
  • Construction Costs (Class A as of November 2022) $43,531,000
  • Allowances $2,569,857
  • Contingency (5.8% of overall project) $2,984,204
  • Total Project Cost (as of November 2022) $ 51,605,561

The report states the cost estimates for the project are within the funding envelope previously shared with the previous council in June and in the funding submission to the GICB Program. The total committed costs to date on this project are $2,614,501. A completed GICB funding agreement will be in place prior to the award of the tender.

A preliminary financing plan has been established for the City of North Bay Community and Recreation Centre. The $25.778 million in federal GICB funding "along with the City’s prudent planning to use one-time dividends and Canada Community Building Fund will finance the project. The final amount of the special debt will be subject to the completion of the tendering process and finalization of the project cost."

Below is an overview of the financing plan:

  • $4.3 million: PAYGO (Tax levy)
  • $3 million: Reserve Special Dividends
  • $9.4 million: Canada Community Building Fund
  • $25.8 million: Green and Inclusive Grant
  • $9.1 million: Special Debt (subject to change based on 2023 Capital budget deliberations and final tender contract)
  • Total = $51.6 million

Senior management will be on hand during Monday's meeting to go into more detail and respond to questions from council.

There is a second option presented in the report:

"Council re-establish a Special Committee to begin a new process for design and construction of a new community centre including determining
the number of ice pads required to satisfy the needs of the community, other recreational and community needs that must be addressed by the facility
and preferred location for the facility and report back to Council with their recommendations.

"This is not a recommended option."

In short, the staff is confident the much-delayed project should move ahead. Whether this new council agrees with them will soon be determined.

Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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