Guelph will get a new community centre … in revised form.
Meeting as the committee of the whole on Tuesday, city council approved a new vision for the South End Community Centre (SECC) which comes with a nearly 45 per cent price hike, now $115.5 million, but maintains the planned amenities and anticipated programming.
“I am so thrilled to see we’ve gotten to this stage in the game,” said Ward 6 councillor Dominique O’Rourke, noting that when she bought her home in 2000 the real estate agent told her the facility was coming soon.
“It is imperative that we as a council just go forward on this project and get this out the door,” added fellow Ward 6 representative Ken Yee Chew. “This is something that the community has been expecting us to deliver for quite some time.”
Plans for a south end centre have been in the works since 2003, when it was first identified in a development charges study, Danna Evans, the city’s general manager of culture and recreation told the committee. It has been identified on various needs assessments since 2009.
The committee-approved plan is expected to be on the agenda for council’s March 28 meeting for potential ratification. If that happens, construction is expected to begin later this year, with a tentative opening of 2026.
“I can’t wait to have a ground-breaking ceremony as soon as possible,” added Mayor Cam Guthrie.
First approved in 2020 with a budget of $80 million, the project was paused last year after construction bids came in significantly over that amount, with the lowest being for $121 million.
Since then the city brought on a construction manager for the project, leading to revisions of the plan that don’t directly impact the amenities or programming to be offered there, staff told council.
- Removal of the rear courtyard and associated design features
- Removal of 450 square metres of hallway space
- Simplified exterior building façade
- The use of alternative materials within various parts of interior spaces
- Potential use of alternative suppliers
- Delay in commissioning and installation of public art.
City staff say $1.8 million of the additional dollars will be funded by taxpayers, with the rest to be covered by the parks and recreation development charge reserve fund.
At the time it was initially approved, the SECC was planned as a 165,000-square-foot facility to be built off Clair Road beside Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School, just north of the Larry Pearson baseball complex, and set to include a 25-metre pool with eight lanes, two gyms, two ice pads, indoor walking track and five meeting rooms.
Earlier staff estimates would have seen 85 per cent of the project paid for through development charges.
City treasurer Tara Baker told council that while is “uncertain” how the project’s funding may be impacted by provincially legislated reductions to development charges and parkland fees, much of the needed funds have been collected during the past 20 years.
“This is a long-term funding strategy,” she said, adding provincial officials have publicly commented on plans to make municipalities financially whole again.
Grant money is also being sought, Baker said.
Construction was initially expected to begin in 2022, with an opening planned for autumn of 2024.