Stettler town council has authorized funding for an engineering study on re-routing the Red Willow Creek north of the Stettler Recreation Centre.
Councillors unanimously approved a $90,000 study though MPE Engineering during the April 3 meeting. This is needed to move ahead with the Alberta Environment approval process before any construction can begin on an expansion to the north of the SRC, as recommended in the Phase 2 design studies.
Design plans for an expansion of the SRC have been discussed over the past few years, although the recommended option requires provincial regulatory approval to re-route the creek north of the facility.
Blueprints for four options have been discussed publicly, with the cheapest of these calling for construction on the north side at a estimated cost of $11.6 million.
Other expansion options highlighted include a concept to build a link along the south side of the building to an addition on the east end of the SRC. This $13.5 million option was recommended against as it would require the construction of a new entrance, which was already redesigned in 2013.
A third option listed would be to demolish the existing blue arena structure, and construct a new elevated field house above the blue arena, and extend a three storey addition out to the south side of the building. A total costing was not completed, as it was seen as very complex and not the most viable option.
A fourth option called for a new field house to be built to the east along the south field of the SRC, for a total cost of $16.4 million. This estimate was recommended against as it would remove the east playing field and existing parking spaces, and does not include budgets to replace them. Relocation of underground site services would also be necessary, adding to the total cost.
At this time, council is only approving the engineering study to move ahead with the regulatory approval process on re-routing the Red Willow Creek. Councillors agreed on the need to properly consult area stakeholders such as the golf course before proceeding with approval on the next phase of expansion to the SRC.
History of the SRC Phase 2 Design Plans
Prior to the vote, council was briefed on the history of the project to date. Four of the councillors(Lawlor, Barros, Smith and Pfeiffer) were elected in October 2017, and have not taken part in these discussions before.
CAO Greg Switenky explained the town entered into an agreement with John Hull Architect in June 2016 to carry out design studies for possible upgrades to the SRC.
This scope of work included a building systems evaluation, an energy audit and architectural concepts for a possible field house expansion.
The previous council also set up a steering committee made up of Councillor Malcolm Fischer, CAO Greg Switenky, Assistant CAO Steve Gerlitz, Parks and Leisure Director Lee Penner and SRC Maintenance Manager Alan King to review the progress of these plans.
In December 2016, council felt they needed more information on the scope of the project and signed a secondary agreement with John Hull Architect. This looked at possible upgrades for the twin arena building, and construction estimates for a field house addition. It also accounted for exterior building upgrades and the costs of a possible relocation of the Red Willow Creek.
When this second study was completed, it was recommended an expansion to the SRC be located to the north of the existing building over the Red Willow Creek. The town then proceeded with public engagement, featuring preliminary designs in the 2017 Town Life magazine, and at the 2017 Trade Show.
As this was the first time the public was hearing of plans to expand north, the project caused some ire with the owners of the Stettler Golf Course who felt they had not been properly consulted. Any re-routing of the Red Willow Creek would impact the layout and configuration of the south side of the golf course.
The town also needed to seek provincial regulatory approval from Alberta Environment to re-route the Red Willow Creek. As this process can take some time, council was advised to approve the funding for the application process, which they did on April 3, 2018.
The second study on the Stettler Recreation Centre gave council an initial estimate on the costs to upgrade and renovate the facility.
Modernization costs for the current structure have come back at $3.9 million. The January 2017 building evaluation stated the original frame shell of the SRC could be maintained for another 10 years, as it had a 30-year lifespan when installed in 1996. It noted that some of the exterior wall panels have shown signs of buckling, and there may be wind-driven rain seeping into the insulation behind it.
Meantime, a two-story field house/walking track attached to the SRC has been estimated to cost $11.6 million, or between $7 and $10M for a detached building.
During the April 3 meeting, CAO Greg Switenky spoke of a new capital infrastructure program with the federal and provincial governments expected to be announced soon. It’s believed the infrastructure grant program will include funding for rural communities who partner together to build facilities that promote wellness.
Finally, there may also be an opportunity for the Town of Stettler to apply for provincial energy efficiency grants to help further bring down the total cost of a future expansion.