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OP-ED: Exploring our options

McKellar Coun. Brian Hamilton hopes to explore more options for indoor turf facility.
By McKellar Ward Coun. Brian Hamilton 

The proposed multi-use indoor turf facility has been a contentious community discussion, as is any project of similar scope and scale. It continues to be a top concern for many residents. 

The defeat of the construction tender means the project is in limbo while city council remains divided on a path forward. Several councillors, including myself, have serious concerns with the current proposal outlined in detail at many public meetings over the past year.
After a lengthy non-business meeting last week administration is working to bring city council options to advance the project. However, there are alternatives approaches worth looking at as well. 
To that end, I hope to explore this option; rebuild the ‘bubble’ at the CLE. This type of structure could be an excellent interim option that would satisfy user groups, taxpayers and allow the details of a larger-scale facility to meet the measure of due diligence.  
A storm destroyed the CLE Sports Dome in the winter of 2016.  Details of the collapse remain indeterminate, though the standardized maintenance that the city provides would likely keep a ‘bubble’ afloat and operational for decades. 
The central location and ample parking for the CLE Sports Dome made it a fitting venue for annual conventions, including the Home & Garden Show and the Thunder Bay Boat Show. 

The CLE has indicated that they would be a willing host and confirm that the necessary amenities, including the concrete pad, mechanical and electrical service, remain intact. The estimated capital cost to rebuild the air supported structure is approximately $5 million, which can be shared by both private and public stakeholders.
Additionally, a project of this modest scope would provide room for a private sector operator to help build additional capacity in the market, giving players field options to enjoy. 
That Thunder Bay needs an indoor turf facility is, in my mind, indisputable. There are thousands of families and players of all ages that would benefit from a year-round facility. For McKellar Ward residents, one of the main issues is equity.  We want to see a facility that is accessible and inclusive for all. It is possible. 
Would this be an ideal project, no. But it could be suitable for our times.  Recreation will be a critical pillar of social revitalization post-pandemic. Providing capacities for indoor sports like ultimate frisbee, football, soccer, and cricket is achievable as well as important.  

Thunder Bay is a sports town. Many families and most critically, youth would benefit from having a year-round facility to cultivate mental health, physical fitness and friendships. 
It’s not the only option I’d support but one worth exploring.
Brian Hamilton 
City Councillor/McKellar Ward