Multiplexes, field houses and wants over needs

Speaking in favour of a field house in Ponoka over a new pool in this week's editorial/opinion.

You gotta dream big and for town council that dream is in the potential of a new field house.

Council’s approval in principal of a new and improved plan that would see the construction of a field house over leisure pool is a refreshing change of pace. If the community questions, surveys and comments referred to in this new report say anything, it’s that residents want a field house. A good one, with many indoor activities including a walking track, a kids play area and finally, some type of inclusive activity that can be done inside besides swimming and ice skating.

I’m talking drop-in activities for families and youths. Of course there are other indoor activities such as gymnastics, fitness and there are even racquetball courts on the west side of the arena in Ponoka, but a central field house would hit the spot for Ponoka.

For proponents of a new pool this came as a big blow considering last year the plan was, indeed, to build a new pool by 2019. That confusion stems from council and administration changing consultants midway through the process. Indeed, when reading the proposal for a concept design and business case, the document refers to older plans.

Despite the change and the confusion from it, a field house actually is a more realistic possibility for Ponoka, once you get past the $12 million price tag $16 million when you include a kids play area, improvements to the arena lobby and improvements to the pool.

When one gets past the initial confusion, within the document appears to be a sound plan and pragmatic approach to the town’s recreation goals, chief among them the creation of a field house. It was a refreshing read to see a consultant suggest caution with regard to getting the proverbial Rolls Royce when a Toyota would do just fine.

For a new pool (estimated at $18 million to $25 million) the term consultants used was the need for “critical mass” in population to have a new indoor pool be sustainable.

If a new arena/wellness centre/field house/recreation centre/pool is the priority for residents then that same pragmatic look needs to be considered as to what is needed the most and who else it will benefit.

Ponoka has a pool.

According to planners it can be maintained for the short to mid term once some improvements are made. We have gyms in the schools, but accessing them is not the easiest thing to do, especially if one wants to take in some spontaneous physical activity over the weekend.

If a parent wants to take their kids to play a game of basketball or badminton on the weekend they have to go outside of the community. As for walking tracks, there are some places where a person can catch a few steps, the Calnash Ag Event Centre barn being one, but that isn’t always ideal.

Taking kids swimming is already an option. Taking them to play a quick game of basketball or indoor soccer is not. Plus there are other user groups who would make strong use of a field house.

The thriving Filipino community in Ponoka plays host to a summer basketball series but making that happen took some years of work and negotiations with the local schools. I’m willing to bet this group would use the field house daily. Especially in the winter months.

Community groups need to get out of their silos and look at what is needed, have some patience and set aside their wants. If these groups can find a way to communicate with each other and come up with clear goals that would support this new plan, it will probably get done faster.

Ponoka News editor Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye enjoys long walks, a solid game of squash and ‘used’ to be an avid swimmer.


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