Build a multi-plex and they will come, expert says

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Above: Roger Smolnicky, Director of Recreation and Community Services for the Town of Rocky Mountain House sits with Town of Morinville Administration during a presentation on rec facilities Mar. 24. – Lucie Roy Photo

by Lucie Roy

Roger Smolnicky, Director of Recreation and Community Services for the Town of Rocky Mountain House, spoke to Council at their Mar. 24 meeting on the Operational Approach to Recreation Facilities.

In a 45-minute presentation to Council Smolnicky said multiplex facilities tend to have a higher cost recovery than a stand-alone facility.

“I think you have a unique opportunity in this community because the population is now ready to really engage in a proper facility,” Smolnicky said, adding the current community consultations give Morinville an opportunity to look at the different components and consider whether they should be added now or phased in. “The trends of the province right now is a lot of municipalities are going to multiplexes. The reason for that is the cost recovery of the multiplexes.”

Smolnicky said a stand alone swimming pools averages a 35 per cent cost recovery, while arenas average a 50 per cent recovery. By contrast, multi-plex facilities with a variety of amenities are seeing 75 to 85 per cent cost recovery.

When the TransAlta Tri Leisure Centre(TLC) was built Spruce Grove was around 13,000 population. Now with a population of more than 25,000, the centre is running around 85 per cent cost recovery. Leduc’s facility started with a population around 3500, and is pushing over 75 per cent cost recovery today.

Smolnicky cautioned Council not to expect high cost recovery out of the gate. He said memberships increase as the community becomes engaged with the facility. He said the first year would be the best year of operation; then Council should expect to see a slight decline, followed by years of incline with population growth.

The director said it is reasonable to count on approximately 10 per cent of population as a usage model for surrounding populations using the facility – A population of 10,000 could expect another 1000 from surrounding area if the mix of amenities is right.

The director spent some time advocating sponsorships, commercial and community lease space, and regional partnerships.

Regional Partnerships usually involves the neighbouring County and Smolnicky spoke of three different funding models.

One of the fairest – in his estimation – is a capital contribution towards the facility based on the percentage of County residents that attend that facility. Another model has the capital contribution pro-rated on an equal basis. The third model is to go 50/50 on operating costs between municipality and neighbouring county. Occasionally a one-time lump sum is offered.

On the subject of programming, the director said youth programming tends to be subsidized in communities while adult programming should work on a cost plus 25 per cent model.

He recommends daycare facilities in multiplexes to allow added revenue streams and to make the facility more accessible. He also recommended rooms and programs where birthday party packages could be offered for skating, swimming and other rec opportunities.

Phased approach

Smolnicky supports building facilities in a phased approach making sure facility design is expandable as components are put together. That can take the form of adding the amenities in stages or adding elements of amenities in stages after the basic parts have been opened.

He also is supportive of looking at different operating models but feels municipally-run facilities do better than leasing to a private enterprise to run the facility.

However the facility is ultimately run, he said how a facility is designed can result in more or less staffing being needed to run the facility. He recommended using the concept in the design of the building to reduce the number of employees needed to run the facility.

Council will hold an open house Mar. 26 at the cultural centre from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to look at the input from the recent stakeholder meetings and attach some costs to the various components people have discussed.

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