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Fieldhouse and lobby space proposed for St. Paul following regional recreation study

The results of a Regional Multipurpose Leisure Centre Feasibility Study were presented to the Town of St. Paul, County of St. Paul and Town of Elk Point this week.
Recreation needs and ideas written on post-it notes by the public are shown from a November 2022 community consultation.

ST. PAUL - The results of a Regional Multipurpose Leisure Centre Feasibility Study were presented to the Town of St. Paul, County of St. Paul and Town of Elk Point last week, proposing that if a project moves forward, it should include a fieldhouse and lobby area.  

The study began a little less than one year ago after the municipalities, which also includes the Summer Village of Horseshoe Bay, decided to move ahead with the study led by Expedition Management Consulting. 

Public engagement, which included a resident survey and in-person engagement, along with site tours of potential sites, took place in November of 2022.  

Justin Rousseau, managing director with Expedition Management Consulting, presented the report during the Sept. 11 Town of St. Paul council meeting. A meeting with municipalities had been held earlier this summer, prior to the report being presented in public. 

During his presentation, Rousseau noted that St. Paul and area has very strong participation in youth sports – much higher than other areas – with nearly 400 soccer players, over 370 hockey players, and over 280 baseball players reported by local clubs. 

“Residents are travelling outside the region to access some facilities,” said Rousseau, within the presentation. He noted, “Facility gaps are restricting program growth.” 

The proposed “base program,” in the report includes a boarded multipurpose sport court fieldhouse (NHL-sized), with partitions so the space can support multiple activities at once. A lobby and social space were also recommended.  

While demand for an indoor walking and running track was noted during public engagement, the items adds a significant amount to the price tag of the project. Without the walking track, the fieldhouse is estimated to cost between $16 million and $20 million. 

Other potential additions include a fitness centre, indoor playground, multipurpose rooms, a climbing wall, and more lobby and social space.  

The “top ranked site” for the proposed facility was north of the Iron Horse Campground, which is also north of the St. Paul Soccer Fields and Reunion Station. The site has enough room that when existing facilities reach their end of life, such as the CAP Arena, they could be considered for replacement at the regional multipurpose leisure centre.  

The study recommends that the Town of St. Paul operate the facility, if it were to move ahead. The facility would also operate year-round. 

As for financials, a five-year preliminary operation revenue and expenses chart was presented to council. On average, about $240,000 would be required each year through taxation, which is about half the annual operational costs. The other half would come from revenues generated at the facility. 

The project would “benefit the entire region,” according to the report. Along with promoting active living and supporting sport tourism, it could also encourage “private section investment and employee retention.” 

The project would follow a five-to-six-year timeline, starting with the approval of the study for planning purposes. The next step would be to create a Facility Development Committee.  

The study also looked at the state of several existing facilities. It recommended maintaining the CAP Arena, Clancy Richard Arena, St. Paul Curling Rink, Elk Point Curling Rink, Allied Arts Centre, and Mallaig Arena. Further study is required for the St. Paul Aquatic Centre, St. Paul Visual Arts Centre, and A.G. Ross Arena.  

During the presentation, Mayor Maureen Miller noted that the study came about because of a request driven by the public.  

She also noted that the study helps the community know where to focus its attention.  

“It isn’t a one and done here... the point is to give us direction,” she added. 

CAO Steven Jeffery also spoke positively of the study, noting that he felt one of the biggest outcomes was the insight into current facilities that was gained. It also allowed municipalities to hear what is important to the community, such as the Aquatic Centre. 

“It really is a long-term document,” said Rousseau. He commended the municipalities for being prudent and doing the study. 

Miller added that the study provided an opportunity to have difficult and ongoing discussions, but also proved the strength that exists in working together.  

Speaking specifically about the walking/running track that was taken out of the recommendation, Jeffery asked how that piece would be added after a building was constructed, to which Rousseau acknowledged it would be hard. But the feature does come with a nearly $5 million price tag if it is included in the project. 

Miller acknowledged that the topic of a leisure facility has been discussed for several years, and “this is exciting to actually put it out to the community.” 

Town of St. Paul council carried a motion to approve the report. 

County of St. Paul 

Rousseau made the same presentation to County of St. Paul council, going over many of the same points. 

“It is a big project... but I see there is a way forward,” said Reeve Glen Ockerman.  

Coun. Darrell Younghans voiced concern over when an “operational plan” appears in the timeline, noting that if municipal partners cannot agree early on a plan, then the project wouldn’t be able to move forward. 

Coun. Dale Hedrick voiced concern about existing facilities in the region, such as the Mallaig and Elk Point Arenas. He noted that he was scared that if a large facility was built, that when it came time to replace the smaller facilities, they would be relocated to the leisure centre. 

CAO Sheila Kitz noted that there is an opportunity to grant fund a large portion of the project, to which Rousseau agreed, noting now that the study is done, the partner municipalities already have more than what others have when they move ahead with applying for grants. The study would be strong support to go along with a grant application, said Rousseau. 

A motion to accept the report and release it to the public was carried by County council. 

Elk Point council weighs in

At the conclusion of Rousseau’s presentation to Elk Point council on Sept. 11, Elk Point Mayor Parrish Tung pointed out that the St. Paul site proposed for the field house does not currently have utilities, but was assured that the cost was included, as were the costs of utilities and staffing.

Coun. Wanda Cochrane said she would like to know how many residents from Elk Point and Divisions 1 and 2 of the County of St. Paul would utilize the facility, the mayor also wondering if there is an assumption that residents from across the region would “migrate to St. Paul” for recreation. That breakdown has not been made to date.

Council further discussed the presentation later in the meeting, with each councillor giving input. Coun. Jason Boorse said, “It’s no mystery that people all across the region want more options for recreation.”

“It would be a nice add to the region,” Deputy Mayor Tim Smereka agreed. “But it still needs discussion. There are a lot of unanswered questions right now.”

Coun. Cochrane had “mixed feelings. I would like to know how many from outside St. Paul would use it. Will it just grow St. Paul’s recreation? There’s only so much money out there and our own arena is in need.”

Although Coun. Dwayne Yaremkevich felt “the report was well written,” he also felt the facility could hurt Elk Point’s minor hockey teams. “And it’s a lot of money for us to put in for something out of town. We need to look after our own facilities.”

The mayor also asked Manager of Operations Jay Duffee for his input, with Duffee saying, “In my mind, it all comes down to cost. We need to have our own facilities.”

Council passed a motion to receive the report as information.

Janice Huser

About the Author: Janice Huser

Janice Huser has been with the St. Paul Journal since 2006. She is a graduate of the SAIT print media journalism program, is originally from St. Paul and has a passion for photography.
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