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Council's awarding of $1.8 million contract to design new community and recreation centre called a 'huge step'

'The question will now be how do we pay for it? What does the next budget look like?' Councillor Mark King

North Bay City Council has taken the next big step towards replacing the West Ferris Arena.

MacLennan Jaunkains Miller Architects Ltd. has been awarded a contract for $1.85 million for design services for the city's Community and Recreation Centre.

A city staff report stated that the proposal scored highest and provides the best overall value to the city.

The report goes on to explain that, “The firm will develop and review a complete detailed construction design package including costing, architectural, interior, mechanical, electrical, and service requirement plans related to the project.”

The Omischel Sports Complex on Lakeshore Drive has been selected as the site for the centre which includes a twin-pad arena.

City Councillor Chris Mayne, who chairs the city's infrastructure and operations committee, said the city received seven formal bids from the RFP (Request for Proposal) process.

“At this point, no one really knows what it is going to look like. They will be having public meetings through the fall into the early winter. So, anyone who is interested in being part of that process, there is still lots of time to get involved, make suggestions. The architects will listen to that and take it back to their designers,” said Mayne.

“The intent is to have construction start in the fall of 2020, so that is about a year from now. So, they have lots of time to get the design done, bring some comments in, bring the proposal back to council. It is terrific seeing the actual tender for the design going ahead.”

For Mayne who sat on the arena committee, the announcement has been a long time coming.

“This is a huge step. We pretty much looked at every conceivable location in the city for about two years. Memorial Gardens, the Omischl location, other areas around the city. We narrowed it down and selected Omischl. To bring it to tender for the design and award the tender is a huge step.”

Mayne says once council approves the design, the project will go to tender with construction starting in about a year.

“A year and a half to two years sounds like a reasonable timeframe for construction (to be completed) once they start.”

Councillor Mark King who chaired the arena committee says awarding the contract is a “big deal.”

“There was never any doubt that the West Ferris Arena had to be replaced because of its condition. And it certainly sets the city up. The question will now be how do we pay for it? What does the next budget look like?”

The city’s building department will continue to monitor the West Ferris arena to ensure it is safe enough to stay open.

See: West Ferris arena's roof in question

Council agreed that the arena has deteriorated to the point where it has reached the end of its useful life.

“We understand right now that it is still safe to use, subject to snow conditions. I think that is a concern, but it is something they monitor. So, at this point from everything we understand, the West Ferris Arena will get us through for the next year comfortably.”

Mayne says once the new community and recreation centre is open, the plan is to quickly wind everything down at the West Ferris Arena.

“What will actually be done with that building, that location afterwards is a future discussion for council. But certainly, it is a terrific location right in the West Ferris area of the city. There are still lots of opportunities there for future recreational uses, but we will see what happens.”