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Consultants ready to move forward with culture and recreation plan

After receiving input from residents, consultants are ready to move forward with a proposed culture and recreation plan for Ponoka.
This concept by McElhanney Consulting shows the potential for a new town hall

After receiving input from residents, consultants are ready to move forward with a proposed culture and recreation plan for Ponoka.

Gary Debney spoke with town councillors Tuesday, Oct. 13 during a committee of the whole meeting to update them on the plan after hearing from residents at a recent public meeting. This new plan sees recreation remain at the same site as the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex. Arts and culture would be somewhere else.

The plan sets the stage for the next 10 years and if followed, will see a new leisure pool, library, arts centre and festival plaza as well as an events arena and re-purposed recreation complex for other sports such as indoor soccer or indoor skate park. For a new events arena and re-purposed recreation complex the cost is estimated at $12 million. The full cost of the plan over the course of that time is expected to reach $30 million.

Debney’s proposal is to move the two ball diamonds at the recreation centre to a new location and then expanding on to the land. He wants to work with the ball groups in Ponoka to determine another site that would be feasible.

“The two new ones have to be ready before decommissioning the old ones,” added Debney in an interview.

For the immediate future, Debney has requested another $12,000 to compile a more in depth pre-design of what the recreation and cultural buildings could look like and a building study of the recreation building to determine its needs. In the near future, the second step in the process, Debney said another $75,000 is needed for a preliminary design. The purpose for this is to get to the next step of developing a leisure pool, something residents have indicated a desire for.

There are two time lines to develop and construct a leisure pool and community gym, estimated at $12 million: by 2019 or 2017. The need is based on the life expectancy of the current pool, which is expected to last three to five more years.

“If they (residents) don’t spend it now, they’ll lose their pool. Then they’ll have no pool and it’s (costs) going up 10 to 15 per cent a year,” explained Debney when asked about the importance of following the plan’s timeline.

“It just gets more expensive every year,” he added.

An engineering review was conducted on the aquaplex building and concluded that upgrading it is not advised.

Some of the challenges of the recreation building show that the brine pipes, the equipment used to cool the ice in the arena and curling rink, are aging. This year the pipes leaked, which created a delay in ice being made and affected minor hockey teams, the Stampeders and other skate groups.

Another area the plan is looking at is the town’s path system and arts and culture. The proposal puts plans for a new town hall, festival plaza and library and arts centre estimated at $6 million. This would sit on the property where the town hall and library sits, but with new buildings.

Debney said the importance of putting this plan together will also give council a report ready for federal grants should they become available. While it is unclear where the new government will be spending its money, new grants for construction could be part of the plan.

The windows of opportunity when those grants become available is slim and Debney says it is better to be prepared.

“Council is prepared to take action and they’ve been very strong on that since the beginning,” said Debney.

After seeing vigorous protests by members of the drop-in centre at a recent public meeting, the building will remain where it is.