Column: Progressive views … on recreational facilities

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Over the last few months there has been quite a bit of discussion surrounding the possibility of a new multi-use recreation centre being constructed within our community. The local Rotary branch has been one of the major supporters of the concept, and the proposal has been amongst the more significant items being discussed by the newly inaugurated town council. A new facility could be open as early as 2017, according to Rotary Major Project Chair Joel Chevalier. This development is timely and exciting, as the Ray McDonald Sports Arena is falling into disrepair and our community has ultimately outgrown the outdated facility.

There are many possibilities for what this new centre could bring to our community, including an improved hockey rink, a public pool, an indoor track or perhaps even a heated playground where parents could bring their children without bracing the cold. While there isn’t a clear plan in place yet, it is vital that council and other community groups like Rotary continue to pursue this framework, hopefully resulting in a state of the art facility that meets the needs of Morinville and surrounding communities.

Those who are opposed to the potential project claim that the financial impact of a new recreational facility would be simply too great to consider its construction, citing that Morinville is simply too small to merit a project this complex. Ultimately, this argument falls flat when you look at Morinville’s growth over the past decade. Between 2006 and 2011, Morinville’s population exploded, growing more than 26 per cent, and the trend is continuing. If our growth is to sustain at these levels (and with the rate of residential growth is quite possible they will increase) our population will likely be greater than 10,000 people by the time the project is completed. Not to mention, Morinville is unique in that it has disproportionately high populations of both youth (0-17) and seniors (65+), the two groups that are most likely to make use of recreational facilities when they are conveniently available to them. This compounded with the fact that this centre is intended to provide service to the entire Sturgeon County region, shows that we have adequate demand for a project of this magnitude.

Another area of concern is the ultimate cost of the project, with some residents concerned that a new centre would cause an increase in taxes levied on citizens. This too holds little credence when we look at the many ways council could reduce the cost for a capital project of this size. New grant opportunities from the federal and provincial government could cut the cost of this facility by two thirds, and if council works closely with the county, Rotary and local business, the cost may be further reduced to a level that will likely become negligible when we consider the savings in repairs for the Ray McDonald Sports Arena.

It would be remarkable to have a place in our community where we can gather to share in sport, fun and conversation, and in the long term it makes sense to ensure our community is prepared to offer the services required of a city as we grow in the next few decades.

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