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Indoor turf facility could cost $42 million if funding not available

Coun. Rebecca Johnson raised concerns that if government funding for the proposed multi-use indoor turf facility does not come through it could cost local taxpayers $42 million
Multi use indoor turf - indoor
Concept design of the inside of the proposed multi-use indoor turf facility. (File).

THUNDER BAY - City council has a better idea of what the proposed indoor multi-use sports facility might look like, but uncertainties involving the cost have some on council very worried.

Referring to her fears of a potential ultimate price tag of more than $40 million, Coun. Rebecca Johnson said “This is a huge amount of money this community is going to debenture over the next 25 years."

Johnson added, "I wont’ see it, I will be gone, but my grandkids are going to be paying for this.”

During Monday night’s city council meeting, council received a first report from the Winnipeg-based consulting firm, Stantec Architecture, detailing its construction documents for the facility.

The documents are 60 per cent complete and are expected to be finished by late September and will be ready for tender shortly after.

According to representatives with Stantec, the design goals include presenting a strong community image and allowing for future sports field development in Chapples Park.

A new transit route will be available to the facility, along with biking and walking paths. The facility will be fully accessible, include indoor turf fields that can be used for a variety of sports such as soccer, lacrosse, baseball, and tennis. The facility will be able to hold 800 spectators and plans include 150 parking spaces.

It is anticipated the facility would operate on a break-even or small surplus basis.

However, the cost of the facility, and what it will mean for the people of Thunder Bay if government funding is not made available, is a major concern for Johnson.

The facility is slated to cost $33.6 million, which is up from the initial cost estimate of $30 million.

The city is still waiting to see if a $22 million infrastructure funding application will be approved by the federal and provincial governments.

If the money is not available, the plan is for the city to borrow $15 million, which will be paid off over 25 years.

“If you add in the estimated interest on the debenture, the 25-year debenture, it brings it to a total of $42-million,” Johnson said.

Johnson also took issue with the public consultation process, saying the people of Thunder Bay are not fully aware of just how much this facility could cost.

“I am very concerned that the community really understands what this means,” she said. “It’s fine to have it in a report, but people don’t generally read all those things and many people don’t understand that.”

The latest financial figures were released last week, three days before online public consultation was to close. Consultation has been extended to August 3, but Johnson said that still doesn’t offer enough time.

“You want these answers back by August 3,” she said. “You have two weeks to get information from the community.”

“We haven’t looked at what further community consultation looks like,” Johnson added. “We need to sit down and talk with administration on how we want to manage this.”

City council voted unanimously to accept the report. The project will be brought back before council on August 10, where a vote will be held whether or not to move forward with the project, which will then be ratified on August 24.

Public consultation is available online at the city of Thunder Bay website.

Doug Diaczuk

About the Author: Doug Diaczuk

Doug Diaczuk is a reporter and award-winning author from Thunder Bay. He has a master’s degree in English from Lakehead University
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