Central’s engineers propose new NHL size rink

Central Manitoulin council hopes to be successful in its bid for infrastructure funds to see the aging J.H. Burt Memorial Arena replaced. photo by Betty Bardswich

Would link directly to Mindemoya’s hall

MINDEMOYA – Tulloch Engineering held an open meeting at the community hall in Mindemoya on October 18 for the feasibility and scoping of the projected multi-use complex for Central Manitoulin.

Project manager Dan Moody began by telling the audience that the process to prepare an application for Central Manitoulin for the infrastructure funds announced by the federal and provincial governments began four weeks ago. The Canada Infrastructure programs offers up to $30 billion in federal, provincial and municipal funds over 10 years. There are four streams within this funding and this municipality will be applying for the grant money under the community, culture and recreation section. The contribution percentages are 40 percent for the federal government and 33.33 percent for the province which leaves 26.67 percent of the new project costs to the municipality. Ontario’s objectives include that the project must meet community and user needs or service gap, promote good asset management planning, represent good value for money and must foster greater accessibility. It must also meet or exceed energy efficiency standards for buildings outlined in the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

“Our goal,” Mr. Moody said, “is to prepare the most robust plan we can. The information and data gathering package will tell your story and explain to funders why Central Manitoulin should apply for this funding. The deadline for the application for this funding is November 12. The application should show that the project is shovel-ready and that the homework has been done. This would have entailed a review of the functional needs. What does the community need? The size of the base? The cost estimate?”

Mr. Moody mentioned that the finances are not yet completed but are close to it and are being done by BDO Canada.

As far as the design of the proposed multi-use complex, Franco Pastore of IDEA Inc. (Integrated Design, Engineering and Architecture), based in Sault Ste. Marie, spoke to this. Mr. Pastore said that the company has designed many of these facilities in Northern Ontario. He went on to say that the vision created for Central Manitoulin is of a facility that includes an NHL-size arena, the Mindemoya community hall, meeting rooms, a kitchenette to service ice events and summer events, a venue that will support both summer and winter activities, a community gathering space, a public lobby space between the arena and hall that would integrate the two areas, administration office, changerooms, accessible washrooms for inside as well as for people coming in from outdoor activities. The dressing rooms would be hockey standard and the arena would have seating for 300 to 500 people. The arena area would be two-storey with a walking track on the top and multi-use rooms on that second floor. The square footage of the proposed facility is 39,000 while the capital cost is $13 million. There will also be an estimated $50,000 price tag to replace the ballfield that will be torn up if this facility is a go. The company, BDO, is responsible for the business plan and sustainability will be on the municipality.

The recreation committee, headed by Councillor Angela Johnston, had prepared a feasibility study to show that a new facility should replace the arenas in Providence Bay and Mindemoya and some buildings. The study shows that the cost for all the municipality’s buildings such as the Spring Bay, Providence Bay, Sandfield halls and others, and the arenas, is an annual operating loss of $2,270,000 over five years. This does not include staff wages. 

It was suggested that the Providence Bay arena could be given over to a community group that would look after fundraising and the running of the building.

At a council meeting, one of the councillors said there should be one arena for every 10,000 people. Manitoulin has eight arenas for a population of just over 13,000.

One attendee asked why the arena has to be NHL-size. The response was that it should be built to NHL standards to attract more hockey teams. Another audience member stated that the Little Current arena has to be used for a Central Manitoulin tournament because there are no showers in the Mindemoya arena.

Former councillor Linda Farquhar, in conversation with The Expositor, stated that the municipality bought 300 feet of property behind the arena some years ago that could be used for showers. Her thinking was to retrofit the Old School and install an elevator in the community hall, all of which could be done without excessively taxing the Central Manitoulin ratepayers. The federal and provincial funding streams support infrastructure in community culture and accessibility.

Mindemoya resident Maja Mielonen expressed her disappointment with people advocating for the new arena in that there wasn’t any input from businesses. “No one knows what is going on,” she said. “We attract a lot of seniors. The building is where the park is. I would hate to see the park go.” 

To this another attendee yelled, “We have a lot of parks, Maja.” Ms. Mielonen again reiterated that, “It is better to have input from the community.” She also asked about green energy and said that anything new should be carbon neutral and asked if they will be speaking to being carbon neutral in the application. When she asked about natural light at the walking track she was told that the company was “not to that much detail yet.” She also asked if there would be community consultation if the funds for the project are received.

But no, if the municipality applies for funding to build an arena, then it must be an arena, although there can be some tweaking of such things as offices and storage, was the answer.

“This is a very unique program and you won’t see it again for another 50 years,” Mr. Pastore said. “$3.5 million will be left to the taxpayer and you have to demonstrate that you can sustain it. You could rotate this building 90 degrees. It does not have to integrate with this building.” 

Ms. Mielonen suggested that they “incorporate the arena in the old space and integrate it with the Old School.” 

Mr. Pastore then said that the community hall is a war memorial and the new project would make full use of the building and it would be fully accessible. The project plan is to have an elevator operating at all levels. 

Judy Mackenzie, Mindemoya Hospital auxiliary president, was delighted to hear the plans for the community hall as were three other auxiliary members.

When Jim Smith asked about the annual maintenance cost, the response was $230,000 for such a facility. It would also cost between $20,000 and $30,000 to replace the park.

One audience member asked about having a pool instead. “Could we make it a step down?” she asked. “We are a town, not a city.”

The town of Cochrane, with a population of 5,321 people, has installed not only a NHL-size arena, but also a fitness centre, a community hall and a swimming pool that includes a 21 foot tall waterslide.

Estimates show that a four-lane pool, 25 metres long, with a therapy pool also would cost $6 million. The infrastructure funding streams would support pool facilities also. However, Councillor Derek Stephens pointed out that the cost to run a pool is $700,000 a year, a figure he said he got from the people overseeing the Espanola pool. To the pool idea, Mr. Moody said that “our timeline precludes factoring in anything else.”

Ms. Mielonen then emphasized the need “to sit and have a really good discussion. This is an incredible tax burden carried by people who want to see other things besides arenas. Serve the community as a whole, instead of just one group,” Ms. Mielonen said.

At that time, another respondent commented that the Central Manitoulin Lions Club would like to do more things such as food festivals, dances, bringing groups in and so on that would thus generate income.

Joanne Smith also spoke on the multi-use facility. “We need to sit down with council and discuss what we want,” she said. 

The answer was, “We having been doing this for 30 years. The community defined a need for a recreational facility. You are in a fairly good position to invest in recreation.”

Linda Grimard of Big Lake asked, “Can we apply for other grants even if we get this funding?” and the response was in the affirmative. “You can use this project to leverage other funds.” Councillor Dale Scott added that “we can strategically look at other things down the road,” as a splash pad and a solar roof had also been suggested.

Mayor Richard Stephens thanked Mr. Moody and Mr. Pastore and said, “The money only came together this summer. We knew we were under the gun and a steering committee did a marvellous job in putting this together.” The $30 billion in provincial funding was announced March 12 and the Investing in Canada plan started in 2016 with an investment of $180 billion in infrastructure that includes the goal to improve social inclusion and fund housing, public housing and community centres.

Councillor Steve Shaffer also spoke, saying, “Money has to be spent to make some hard decisions going forward and this is one avenue we have to have going forward.”

There will be about a six month wait for an answer to the application and Tulloch Engineering is looking at 16 months for construction for whichever company gets the tender to build.