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Planning studies for indoor tennis and soccer projects get city funding

Council approves $20,500 out of reserves for tennis to explore bubble over four exisiting courts and $25,000 added to budget for soccer to further study tourism and economic impacts of proposed multi-million facility.
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Chapples indoor
A schematic design of the proposed indoor turf facility at Chapples Park (Stantec/Soccer Northwest Ontario)

THUNDER BAY – Two local sports organizations are taking the next steps in the early stages of pursuing new indoor facilities.

Thunder Bay city council on Wednesday night approved funding for the Thunder Bay Community Tennis Centre and Soccer Northwest Ontario to conduct studies and planning to move forward on their individual proposed projects.

At the public pre-budget meeting on Jan. 11, officials from the tennis centre requested the city’s backing to go ahead with a business plan study that could allow them to install a bubble over four existing courts at their Chapples Park site as soon as this fall.

Council approved taking $20,500 from the stabilization reserve fund to fund that planning, though some concerns were raised about the four-court bubble being a temporary solution as a more permanent measure of having six new indoor courts attached to the proposed indoor soccer centre is explored.  

“This study is going to help defend the need for indoor, year-round tennis based on a four-court model, which I think will help support advancing the need for the longer term vision they have of six courts,”  community services manager Kelly Robertson told council.

“It will also help equip the club with the capacity to generate revenue so they can provide financial contribution to a longer term vision.”

Coun. Shelby Ch’ng insisted having a facility to allow the sport to be played year-round immediately will only help that long-term goal.

“Having this interim solution helps facilitate the tennis community. When they build the six courts eventually in the future, we need to have a strong tennis community ready to fill that need,” Ch’ng said.

“How do we do that? We need the interim solution. This will help lay that groundwork and graduate us to that bigger space we eventually need.”

For soccer, council approved a recommendation from administration to immediately submit a Stage 1 funding application to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and add $25,000 from the budget to further study the proposed facility.

“This funding would help us do a more detailed research and business case around the tourism and economic impacts that would come with the proposed project,” Robertson said, adding city officials had met with representatives from both the NOHFC and FedNor within the last two weeks.

“They specifically gave us the feedback that the business plan was weak in respect of the project’s capacity to generate this kind of impact.”

According to a memorandum from city administration, the plan that was presented to council last month did not include additional operating and capital costs that are expected to drive the project’s price tag in the range of $27 to $30 million, up from the $25 million that was proposed.