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Council commits $170k to assess indoor turf proposal

City council authorized $170,000 in spending to assess a proposal from Soccer Northwest Ontario to build an indoor turf centre adjacent to the Canada Games Complex and Community Auditorium.
A site plan shows the proposed location of an indoor turf facility adjacent to the Community Auditorium (at right) and Canada Games Complex (top right). (Soccer Northwest Ontario)

THUNDER BAY – The City of Thunder Bay will spend up to $170,000 to examine a proposal to build an indoor turf facility adjacent to the Community Auditorium and Canada Games Complex.

City council authorized the expense on Monday, after expressing strong interest in the proposal brought forward by Soccer Northwest Ontario (SNO) at a meeting last week.

The funds will support work including a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment, a preliminary geotechnical investigation, development of a floor plan, a third-party cost estimate, and a traffic study.

Staff will also examine how the proposal would impact existing users of the site, which is currently home to a baseball diamond.

The 147-by-56.5 metre, steel-supported building proposed by SNO would include 10 change rooms, a pro shop, concession, gathering area, meeting room, offices, accessible washrooms, a second floor mezzanine, and floor-level seating, it says.

The organization has expressed confidence the design could be built for $20 million, less than half the cost of the design council most recently considered, and rejected, at Chapples Park.

Last week, council directed administration to assess the SNO proposal and report back by March 13, though senior staff cautioned that timeline would be too short to effectively complete the work.

The city will award a $170,000 contract to Stantec Architecture to perform much of the assessment without a public bidding process.

Staff suggested in a report that was appropriate since the contract is similar to one the firm won through a competitive bidding process in 2019 to assess Chapples Park as an indoor turf site.

The company’s $170,000 fee estimate for the work, which includes a $34,000 contingency, is “fair and reasonable,” the report stated.

Coun. Andrew Foulds agreed with that assessment Monday, saying he had feared a larger price tag.

Councillors looked to ensure the city wouldn’t commit the full $170,000 if the environmental assessment flagged issues requiring serious remediation.

"Let’s take it step-by-step so we can be prudent," suggested Coun. Rajni Agarwal, adding she believed the land was previously used as a garbage dump.

Director of asset management Gerry Broere offered an assurance administration would return to council if significant remediation issues were found, before taking expensive next steps like a $25,000 traffic study.

Broere added he was "not quite sure it was a dump site" but that an incinerator had been located nearby in the past.

The cost for the contract will be drawn from the city’s indoor turf reserve fund, which has a balance of roughly $17.5 million.

On Monday, council also approved delaying a report-back on five other possible options for an indoor turf complex that the city solicited from the private sector in July 2021, but still hasn’t formally considered.

Staff suggested it made more sense to first assess the viability of the Soccer Northwest site, given council's expressed interest.

Ian Kaufman

About the Author: Ian Kaufman

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