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Opinion: New arena will work as a true community centre

'If we are going to grow and attract people we need to put forth a progressive image'
20201111 omischl field wide turl
The new arena is expected to be built at the Omischl Sports Complex in West Ferris. Jeff Turl/BayToday.

Most people who know me know that I have many years of municipal experience (42 years) and I have had experience when it comes to developing community centres.

Basically, I am a note-taker.

During the numerous open council meetings presentations and the public open house meetings, I took a lot of notes. There were many open house presentations and we heard a variety of suggestions and comments from those that attended. Staff and architects tried to answer the questions and took notes that helped change some factors on the drawings to incorporate the suggestions.

I listened to staff, the public, and the developers comments on this subject and I submit this information so that it may bring more light to the subject.

The Memorial Gardens site turned out to be unacceptable due to the fact that people were having to park 6-7 blocks away, sometimes blocking streets and personal driveways. The city would also lose what is left of the green space behind the arena and the underground exploration of site possibilities would be very expensive.

Council took a vote on site location and Omischl was the site chosen.

Some asked if West Ferris could be saved. Most people agreed that the building can’t be saved and a single-pad arena is not financially efficient. Engineers tell me that the foundation is also in very rough shape.

Presently, the city could be spending up to $100,000.00 a year just to clear the snow off the roof so we can keep it open for a short while waiting for a new complex.

To make room for a double pad at that site, council may have to buy the houses on the side and, the green space would be lost to parking.

In my opinion, this land was donated as a park and the people don’t want to lose it. Just visit the area and you will see that on most nights there are numerous children and adults using the fields. It should be maintained as a public park. Maybe we should have purchased the Tweedsmuir School site.

As I mentioned previously, the Omischl site was chosen by council and I supported this decision. It is a great site for this development.

Council owns multiple acres at Omischl and it goes all the way from Lakeshore Drive to the historical Lavase River. This can lead to many other future activities such as a skate park, environmental walking and educational activities, and court placements.

Some questioned the site being too far away, but anyone knows that within 25 minutes, one can get anyplace in North Bay. My daughter lives in Mississauga and to go to skating classes for her children, she has to travel almost an hour.

Transit will bring patrons right to the front door. The entrance will be addressed and improved with intersection changes and lights at Booth Road and the new MTO-City changes at the highway will help as well.

The whole project is accessible including the 14 dressing rooms and the walking track. Everyone will be able to use this facility.

Many requested more seating and a more accessible viewing area and that was accomplished in the new drawings we saw at the later meetings.

The dressing room errors are going to be corrected because the four dressing rooms that will lead into the complex also exit directly to the fields and the walls are moveable so to create larger team rooms.

Just a side comment to the slowpitch and other ballplayers. I hear that a field alignment is in the works, so you should be able to see the ball after 6:00 pm

Now to the design of the facility. This design optimizes the characteristics of the site and integrates them with the existing sports complex.

This “trident “ design:

  1. Reduces the need for significant blasting and tree removal
  2. avoids significant environmental and species at risk challenges
  3. optimizes present parking service for both summer and winter
  4. no disruption of present fields and parking
  5. reduces the walking distance to any of the facilities

The trident shaped structure minimizes the overall project costs by reducing the environmental impacts that blasting would have brought on. Rock blasting and pilings caused by blasting can be a very expensive part of any development. Estimates are that this will save over a quarter-million dollars.

This configuration takes advantage of the underlying bedrock and we won’t have to do the extensive blasting by using another building shape.

There is a bit more linear wall space with the trident shape, but by adding above code insulation and solar-facing windows we’re going to save operational dollars in the future. It will be energy efficient.

Some suggested that the complex needs to cater to more than hockey and ice sports such as ringette.

I agree. I also agree that the project will work as a true community centre.

Both rink surfaces don’t need to be flooded all the time. One of the pads could serve other uses such as special events, conventions etc., when requested as we work with our recreation and activity committees.

In summary, North Bay has not built an arena since the fifties. Doublerink, which has about seven years left,  was privately built, and, West Ferris has served for many more years than was planned. West Ferris always had a tireless group of volunteers that took a big load from the city.

Because of this, North Bay is way behind the eight ball regarding the needs for such a project and the facts are that a delay will cost us more than 1.5 million dollars per year.

One of our recent additions to council mentioned escalating costs in his acceptance speech, and I agree with him. Compare the cost of a 2x4 today and last year.

At a recent meeting I attended recently, the CAO’s comments echoed this situation

With the present interest rates and market desires for these types of investments, we need to do it at this time.

These buildings last 40 years, so, amortization adjustment is a tool we can use.

We’re still going to have to build this complex, but the costs will be much higher.

North Bay is growing. People are moving here as fast as we can get housing ready. A local real estate salesman recently advertised for more inventory.

We are attracting a good available workforce that will in turn attract business and grow our tax base. This falls right in with council’s “growth” program.

If we are going to grow and attract people we need to put forth a progressive image.

Bill Vrebosch

North Bay City Councillor.