Tofino plans to build a $5 million gym and is banking on the provincial and federal governments to cover most of the cost.
During a special council meeting held on Nov. 15, Tofino’s newly elected council made their first spending decision by allocating $116,524 to make the gym project ready for a potential grant from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program and the province’s Community, Culture, and Recreation funding stream.
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Tofino’s Manager of Community Sustainability Aaron Rodgers said the ICIP-CCR grant could cover roughly $3.7 million of the proposed $5 million cost, leaving the district on the hook for the remaining $1.3 million.
“Getting the grant is of prime importance to us,” Rodgers said during Nov. 15’s special meeting, which was scheduled before council’s first official regular meeting because the grant application must be in by Jan. 23.
The $116,524 council agreed to spend in support of the application includes detailed cost and design work as well as a geotechnical survey and cost- benefit analysis, all of which would be needed to move ahead on any gym facility, regardless of whether Tofino receives the ICIP-CCR grant, according to Rodgers.
“We will have a shelf-ready plan,” he said. “If another grant comes available, we will have those ready to go.”
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The proposed gym would be built adjacent to the Tofino Community Hall and would include a fitness room as well as reconciliation space, Rodgers said adding that additional space would be kept open to accommodate a potential future amenity, like a swimming pool or daycare facility.
The current plan would eliminate Tofino’s nearby bike park, which would be paved over to create parking for the new gym facility.
Rodgers said Tofino plans to wait until 2021 to build the gym, because the district will have its hands full with the construction of a $60 million sewage treatment facility until then.
“It’s a $60 million project that will probably be the biggest project that any of us will ever see in our lifetimes, and probably my children’s lifetimes, in Tofino. So, that’s a pretty big project that will take up a lot of our resources,” Rodgers said of the treatment plant.
Tofino’s Chief Administrative Officer Bob MacPherson added that the district doesn’t want the companies working on the two projects to interfere with each other.
“We want to avoid having two different contractors tripping over each other and coming to us with delay-claims saying, ‘Well, you’re doing this other work so we can’t do the work that we’re doing and you owe us more money because we had to re-establish a schedule,” he said.
Coun. Dorothy Baert agreed that a gym is needed in Tofino, but expressed concern over losing the bike park.
Rodgers said the bike park is “nearing end-of-life” and added that the district would have until 2021 to map-out a plan to relocate the bike park.
Mayor Josie Osborne said the community could be engaged to help design a future new bike park in town.
Baert asked whether Tofino’s Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation neighbours could provide financial support for the project and Rodgers responded that those conversations have not yet taken place.
“We did not go the Tla-o-qui-aht looking for financial support at this time,” Rodgers said adding the new gym could become a valuable space for Tla-o-qui-aht members to host cultural events. “For us, it was more of a sense of, ‘How do we do this, as neighbours, for a space that becomes jointly ours.’ It’s a District of Tofino project, but it’s built in the spirit of reconciliation.”
Coun. Britt Chalmers asked why a gym was prioritized over a pool.
Rodgers said a 2007 feasibility study commissioned by the Tofino Recreation Commission determined the community could not afford a swimming pool, which would carry significantly higher operational costs than a gym.
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Coun. Duncan McMaster urged council to focus on a gym facility.
“There’s nowhere in this town where kids and adults can go and play sport and get out of the rain. I think this council needs to focus on that,” he said. “I don’t want us to repeat the community hall where we tried to satisfy everybody and we ended up with a mausoleum that doesn’t suit anybody; sport or culture. I think we should focus on a recreation facility for kids to go and do sport and fitness.”
Coun. Tom Stere said he supported the gym pursuit and added the potential new facility could also serve as a valuable emergency evacuation centre.