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Final hurdle for indoor tennis centre coming to council on Monday

The facility will reside on municipal lands within Chapples Park.

THUNDER BAY – Construction could start on the proposed new indoor tennis facility in very short order – if council agrees to green light the project on Monday night.

City administration is recommending the city enter into a lease agreement for the Chapples Park site with the Thunder Bay Tennis Centre, while also designating both the indoor and outdoor facilities as municipal capital facilities.

The latter move would exempt the tennis centre from municipal taxes, which in turn would help lower operational costs and better ensure financial viability.

It’s a huge relief getting to this stage, said Jamie Grieve, director of tennis with the Thunder Bay Tennis Centre, adding should council give its approval, there would be a one-week ratification period required and work on the project – first proposed five years ago – could begin as soon as the builder is able to start.

“It’s been a long time. We started this project in 2019. The last year-and-a-half we’ve been trying to check off all the boxes to make sure administration is doing its due diligence and getting the answers it needs. We’re just really happy to bring this to fruition, finally,” Grieve said on Thursday.

He estimated they had about 2,000 users last year, including 518 members, and thinks that number could grow to 3,000 or 4,000 once the indoor site is open.

Getting the municipal capital facility designation is important, Grieve said, and has been part of the financial plan all along.

“It’s really important to keep costs down for users. We want to be inclusive. We want to provide a very affordable sport and recreation facility with tennis and pickleball,” Grieve said.

“That’s really the main thing. In our initial business plan that was agreed to with the city, there was never really a line for property taxes at all.”

The facility will reside on municipal lands within Chapples Park.

Kelly Robertson, the city’s general manger of community services, said the municipal capital facilities designation takes into consideration the service the indoor tennis centre could offer residents of Thunder Bay.

“The reason for that is generally because the assets would be considered to be offering a public benefit to our community. There are conditions in place that the city and the tennis centre would need to satisfy in order to uphold that designation, should council approve it,” Robertson said.

“But generally, the purpose of the facilities are for the broader public benefit. It’s to provide recreation and an indoor racket facility.”

The MCF is also conditional on the two sides reaching a lease agreement for the land, something Grieve said should not be a hurdle moving forward.

The tennis centre would own the indoor and outdoor facilities, though the city does share some of the costs of maintaining the outdoor courts, on a 50-50 basis, which would continue.

The city has also agreed to contribute $1.5 million to the cost of construction. Other money would come from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and FedNor. The indoor centre also has a naming agreement with Rogers.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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