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Pursuit of new recreation facility rolling strong in Tofino

District seeking out funding sources for $7 million facility
The Tofino Community Hall can’t host all the activities the town wants to host, so the district is working towards building a new facility to supplement it. (Andrew Bailey photo)

The ball is still rolling on Tofino’s pursuit of an indoor recreation centre as the district continues to run through funding possibilities.

In a presentation to Tofino’s municipal council on March 8, the district’s manager of community sustainability Aaron Rodgers noted that a new rec centre is included in the district’s strategic plan and has been a longtime community pursuit.

He said the district has spent roughly $140,000 on planning related costs towards that goal so far and requested another $125,000 for detailed cost estimates, which council unanimously approved.

Rodgers explained that the additional $125,000 would come from the New Municipal Buildings Unrestricted Reserve and the Amenity Reserve Fund and the design work it pays for will strengthen an upcoming grant application.

He cautioned though that other costs will come into play if the project reaches construction, having presented a roughly $7 million pricetag during a Nov. 9 presentation to council.

“If the Community Recreation Facility project moves forward, there will be a significant financial impact to the District. The funding for the capital costs of the project have been proposed at 40 per cent debt and 60 per cent grant funding which will be further discussed throughout the financial planning process and is subject to change,” he wrote in his March 8 report.

He said the facility’s original design has been tweaked to reduce costs and increase energy efficiency, suggesting the energy upgrades would strengthen future grant applications.

He added that the district is currently under contract with Studio 531 as a third-party construction cost estimator and is looking for more partnerships to work on the design process to ensure any estimates take the local construction landscape into account.

He said the plan is to break ground on the facility in 2024.

“While all this is happening, we’re going to hopefully increase our collaboration with (School District 70) for short term recreation needs,” he said.

Coun. Duncan McMaster supported the funding request, adding that local First Nations should be consulted throughout the process.

“It’s a lot of money to spend on a design, but I realize we’ve got to do it to have any chance of getting a grant,” he said. “We’ve not been that successful with grants in the past for recreation and we know money is going to be really tight from all sources in the near future with the way things are going on in the world.”

Coun. Tom Stere agreed and suggested the reserve funds being asked for are allocated for community amenity projects like a recreation centre.

“This has been a decades long endeavour that we’ve been engaged in,” he said. “We’re going to be upwards of $260,000 for the design work, but we know that that’s necessary for this particular piece of the puzzle.”

Stere noted though that the district recently got burned by cost estimates for its wastewater treatment plant, which came in $30 million below the mark and he urged Rodgers to keep in close contact with the contracted cost estimators.

“I would highly suggest that we ensure that they are involved in this process. As you well know, what an architect and what a contractor (say) can often be two different things,” he said. “I look forward to seeing some movement on this.”

Mayor Dan Law said the recreation facility would fill a very visible void.

“I’m very excited to see this come forward. It has my full support. This has been a longstanding issue, the lack of recreation amenities in town, and this will fit the bill,” he said.

Coun. Cathy Thicke suggested she had conducted a “straw poll” that showed locals are in favour of the project.

“When I asked about this concept, there were some very thoughtful comments and questions, but there was a very well received endorsement,” she said. “Not only do I endorse this project and going forward with it, but in the straw poll of 10 people of various ages, it warmed my heart to know that there was community sentiment to go forward.”

She said she was “reluctant” to give more funding towards the project’s design work, but added that she understood the work needs to be done to put a solid grant application together.

“That’s a lot of money when we already have something that looks to me and my untrained eye is a very detailed drawing,” she said. “I’m a little bit surprised….I’ve also heard it’s going to be a very competitive grant to go for.”

She added she would like to see showers and an exercise area included in the project’s scope.

“I would rather not see just an empty multi-use space,” she said. “I would very much hope to see something more along the lines of a fitness studio where people could exercise on their own schedules in a more cost-effective way.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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