Tofino is in pursuit of an indoor gym but wants to make sure the community actually wants one before spending any more money.
An open house will be held at the Tofino Community Hall on June 12 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to hear local support and opposition towards a potential indoor recreation facility.
The event will be jointly hosted by the district and the Tofino Recreation Commission (TRC) and will include free food and live music along with presentations and interactive opportunities to prioritize the types of amenities the facility should house.
“We want people to come out, engage, have a fun time and make it a nice community gathering as well,” Tofino’s manager of community sustainability Aaron Rodgers told the Westerly News.
“Once in a while, as you live in your community, opportunities come along to actually have a say in what’s going on and this is one of those opportunities and it’s for something that could be really great for the community down the road so come out and have your say.”
Locals touted an indoor recreation space as a top priority during the public input into Tofino’s Recreation Management Plan in 2012-2013 and the district split a $20,000 bill last year to put together a feasibility study for a local gym.
Both groups have zeroed in on one of the options identified in the study; a roughly 11,000 sq. ft. prefabricated indoor gym located next to the Tofino Community Hall that would be equipped with storage space, bathrooms and possibly an office, according to Rodgers.
He said the facility carries an estimated cost of $1.8 million
“The Rec. Commission’s approach was to try to do something that’s as affordable as possible,” Rodgers said. “We’re not looking for the Taj Mahal.”
He suggested the gym would supplement Tofino’s roughly 6,000 sq. ft. community hall, which has no storage space and is an ineffective venue for sports.
“What it would allow us to do is focus the more social events, like weddings, at the community hall and get it down to a single use rather than trying to do everything for us and then have the gym focus on the more physical aspects of our community; like floor hockey, basketball, badminton and pickle ball,” he said.
The district has budgeted about $50,000 this year to do some detailed cost analysis and site planning, but Rogers said that money won’t be spent if locals don’t want the centre.
“We want to check back with the community to make sure that this is still something the community is interested in,” he said.
“We’re trying to gauge that interest and make sure that we’re on the right track because, if it’s going to go forward, we’re going to spend $50,000 this year and, if we don’t have the interest, then maybe we need to second guess ourselves and perhaps not spend that money.”
He suggested a referendum would be held so the community can decide whether to let the district take out a 20-year loan to pay for the roughly $1.8 million facility through taxation.
“You’d be looking at a 3-4 per cent tax increase for 20 years,” he said. “It would be roughly in the neighborhood of $60 a year for a house valued at $500,000.”
He said if the project graduates through the public process, a steering committee would be set up, and grant opportunities sniffed out, before a referendum is held.
“We’re trying to get this project to the point where we can make a decision based on something concrete: what we’re going to build, how much money it’s going to cost and where it’s going to be located,” he said.
“We’re doing our due diligence at the front to make sure we understand exactly what we want as a community and then price it out, rather than go to everybody and say, ‘Do you want a gym, yes or no.’ It’s a bit more of a process but I think in the end it will probably result in a better product and a happier community.”
He said a referendum could come as soon as next year but would not commit to a specific timeline.
“I don’t want to put too sharp a number on it right now,” he said.
“We’ve got other things coming up, like the extension of the multi-use path and a sewer treatment plant and a whole bunch of other things, so I understand there are other things that need to be accounted for in our budget.”
He acknowledged the potential gym’s operational costs must also be considered and said revenue would be generated through renting it, and the community hall, out for events.
“It’s one thing to build a facility, but it’s the operating costs that really get expensive over the years so we’re working on a business plan to find a way to offset as much of the operating cost as we can,” he said.
“We’re aiming at 100 per cent offset.”
He added the district has had positive conversations with the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation about being a player in the project.
Rodgers said effective site planning could transform the area into a valuable and significant community hub.
“After the gym is developed, we could possibly have another location for another community building such as a library and also the development of a courtyard between the three buildings,” he said adding Resort Municipality Initiative Funds could be used to create the outdoor community space.
“That’s sort of an out there thing; an idea that might work. We’ve done some conceptual drawings that we’ll be presenting at the meeting.”
Rodgers noted locals have also voiced desires for a swimming pool in town but said a gym is currently the top priority.
“There are, right now, two initiatives underway in Tofino to try to develop a pool,” he said citing the recently formed Tofino Pool Society as well as the West Coast Multiplex.
“We’re supportive of those initiatives and helping out where we can but, for us, this is a separate need than a pool.”
Tofino’s municipal council has openly questioned whether locals would be willing to support paying for a gym through taxation when they have already committed to covering the operational costs of the proposed West Coast Multiplex but Rodgers suggested the two projects should be considered separately.
“The communities, by way of referendum, have endorsed paying for the operating cost for the multiplex and, if that was to move forward and this was to move forward, I think there is some concern out there that could be quite a tax hit,” he said.
“I hear that. Where I end up with though, and why I ‘m continuing to move this forward, is the type of recreation that I see is needed in the community involves indoor, dry, space at nighttime in the wintertime.”
He added a gym and multiplex would serve separate needs.
“An indoor rink is great, but it doesn’t allow me to have folks play floor hockey or basketball or volleyball or indoor soccer or all the other things that we need,” he said.
“I tend to look at them as separate needs, each valuable in their own right…Depending on who you are, perhaps you think it would be cool to have both. A lot of people say, ‘Well we can’t afford both,’ but maybe we can and I think it’s a decision better left to the individual taxpayer and best addressed through a referendum.”