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New arena decision heading for overtime

An extra session is required in the ongoing saga of the proposed community and recreation centre as municipal politicians will not make a decision on the approximately $51.6M development before City of North Bay staff fully address their questions and concerns
2022 06 11 Community and Recreation Centre Arena (CNB)
Rendering by MJMA Architects and Mitchell Jensen Architects of North Bay's proposed Community and Recreation Centre.

Following a marathon two-and-a-half-hour regulation time meeting, the decision on the proposed community and recreation centre to be located at the Steve Omischl Sports Complex on Lakeshore Drive is going into overtime.

An extra session is required in the ongoing saga of the proposed development as municipal politicians will not make a decision on moving the approximately $51.6-million development to the council level for a vote before City of North Bay staff have the time to address their additional questions and concerns about design, cost, and site suitability.

Monday's special committee meeting was called and held quickly following a motion from Coun. Jamie Lowery seeking an update on the often contentious project, including the estimated cost and business plan to operate the facility.

See related: City staff makes case to go ahead with arena project

Coun. Justine Mallah, the chair of council's community services committee, seconded the Lowery motion and was the driving force behind referring the matter back to the committee level while the staff seeks answers to several questions, among them whether the $25.77-million Green and Inclusive Community Buildings (GICB) program funding can be transferred if the project were to be moved to another location and a more detailed breakdown of ongoing maintenance and operating costs.

Due to the nature of the committee's questions, it will involve correspondence with Infrastructure Canada, the federal entity in charge of the GICB program, although Mayor Peter Chirico did share he had spoken with MP Anthony Rota and the funding is almost certainly tied to the Lakeshore location. With the timing of the committee's requests and the approaching holiday season, it seems unlikely the matter will be addressed until the new year.

Mallah polled the committee and responded to a question from Coun. Lana Mitchell about the reason for referring the matter back to the committee level.

"There are a lot of questions and there are some considerations and work to be done at the staff level. We'll be pushing it to the next meeting where we will ask more questions and then decide whether to move the project forward or not," said Mallah. 

Councillors Mitchell, Tanya Vrebosch, Chris Mayne and Mac Bain voted against leaving the community and recreation centre file with the community services committee.

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

Watch CFO Margaret Karpenko go over financial implications of the project in the video below:

Marc Downing, the project lead from MJMA Architecture & Design spoke about the trident design choice versus a box- or rectangle-shaped facility in response to a question from Vrebosch.

"In my opinion, that's a significant redesign," he said. "The process goes through a couple of phases. There is concept design where we work through the building program with stakeholders. That work is, for the most part, done. Investigating the site, it's been extensively investigated. There is no reinvestment there. 

"Design development where we actually lay out the individual spaces — that would be starting again. I assume the appeal of the box — which I don't fully understand — is that it appears compact and has loftier spaces in it, and more two-storey space.

"I don't see how that serves the program but we would look into that. Generally, it's a couple of months per phase. So, if we were starting a new building design, based on a reconfigured floor plan, with criteria that have yet to be spelled out, it would be months of work and I think it would be unlikely that you could tender on the date [May 2023] that we said we needed to tender in the [GICB] grant application."

Vrebosch then asked if it was "safe to say there would be significant cost increases, significant delays, and then, with the delays, we would see," accessibility improvements delayed again for individuals in the community, "because we like a box version versus a trident."

Downing responded, "I think that's true, yes."

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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