Special to the Westerly
The delivery of West Coast Multiplex plans has been postponed a few weeks, but the architectural firm working on designs says it’s a minor delay to a project that promises to bind eight West Coast communities tighter.
Local officials had expected to attend a meeting in September for the big reveal for an arena that could later be expanded with a pool and a gym, however Kevin Klippenstein of Vic Davies Architecture Ltd. said the company wanted just a bit more time to cross their t’s and dot their i’s.
“We hit a snag, which isn’t unusual,” he said, adding a consultant had misunderstood some internal drawings and came back with figures they didn’t think they could rely on. “We had to take another look and do some refinements.”
Community members have been working towards a rec. centre in the Tofino-Ucluelet corridor that could feature a pool, multi-purpose rooms, and a gymnasium, for two decades.
When VDA first worked on plans for a multiplex, back in 2008, the company found it would cost more than $14 million for a facility with a pool, arena and a fitness area.
That was a bit too rich for West Vancouver Island blood and the West Coast Multiplex society decided the region could only afford to build one big ticket item at a time.
It selected an NHL-size rink, that could be used for a broad range of activities when the ice is removed, for Phase 1.
VDA is now completing $75,000 designs, paid by the balance of a $100,000 grant from the federal Aboriginal affairs ministry (then Indian and Northern Affairs Canada), secured through Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation “for an alternative construction approach and to revise business plan and capital cost estimates.”
The Victoria-based architecture company is the group behind the award-winning Langford YMCA/YWCA, the Comox Rec Centre expansion and more than 80 community pools.
Society member Samantha Hackett says building this sort of facility is a process, particularly for a community as tiny as the eight communities that have signed on to this one.
“Gosh, it started 20 years ago,” she says, relating a story of how Ucluelet resident and current Multiplex Society board member Dave Taron used to collect returnables to raise some of the first dollars towards the project. “It really was such a dream. Now it’s something that could become a reality.”
Excitement is building around the project, she says, pointing to the $20,000 raised in a single day for the project during a recent fundraiser held at Long Beach Golf Course.
“It was a beautiful day out at the golf course,” she said. “If everyone supports it, we could actually have this facility in a couple years.”
He doesn’t think local residents are ready to shoulder the financial burdens of an arena, as ratepayers brace for tax hikes to pay for proper sewage treatment.
“I don’t think the appetite’s that great from what I’ve seen,” he said, adding he would rather see a rec centre that was actually in Tofino that people could reach by bike or on foot.
“People are concerned about the long-term cost.”
And, he doesn’t believe a facility out by the airport would get much use, especially considering possible user fees.
Hackett said one of the reasons the society decided to build the arena first was that it might only raise taxes for the average ratepayer by $25 a year.
McMaster doesn’t buy it.
“I’d like to see the math behind that,” he said. “It sounds a bit far-fetched.”
Hackett says recreation is a key part of making the West Coast a desirable place to live.
“Yes we need our infrastructure,” she said. “But we need to remember about seniors, families and kids.”
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the multiplex over the years.
Back in 2012 a Vancouver Island University study concluded that overall, residents liked the idea of a multiplex, but were concerned about the cost to build and operate one.
It found that most residents wanted a pool more than they wanted anything else. And 50 per cent of the rural Area C respondents answered “none” when asked to consider the advantages of the multiplex.
Klippenstein, the VDA architect, said the design stage is quite an involved process.
“You look at structural, mechanical, electrical, geotechnical, civil design,” he said. “You have a cost consultant say, this is in the neighbourhood of this cost in order to construct.”
He says they’re planning to propose both canvass-based and pre-engineered options for Phase 1 of the multiplex.
Ted Adnitt, CEO of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, said the band feels the multiplex could open a lot of doors.
“We’re in a key location where it would benefit community members,” he said. “We support the concept of being able to provide recreation to youth.”
Adnitt was a bit surprised the society was able to secure the INAC grant, since it’s rare for the ministry to support projects off-reserve. But, the business plan presented last January highlighted the potential for the First Nation to manage the multiplex if it’s built.
“I didn’t think Indian Affairs would be able to assist,” he said. “They looked at it from an economic development perspective.”
For Tofino councillor Cathy Thicke, the multiplex isn’t just a vision moving towards reality, it’s one dream birthing another.
“Regardless of the financial outlook, I support the efforts of the Multiplex Society to build the multiplex, both the rink and the pool,” she said. “I think the proposed location – while a compromise – is a good one.”
Along with an airport and multiplex, she’d like to see a school built at the site near Long Beach.
“Can you imagine a rink, pool, and surf beach with a school adjacent? No other place in Canada has that.”