Penticton is a long way from replacing Memorial Arena or getting out of the convention business, according to the city’s mayor.
A report on the city’s inventory of facilities, according to Mayor Andrew Jakubeit, was more about raising questions than providing a firm plan for the future of aging facilities in the city. Replacing Memorial Arena and consolidating other city buildings is being considered, but Jakubeit said the possibility is just a remote idea at the moment.
“We are looking at 25 standalone facilities throughout the community, the average age is about 40 years old. Over the next 10 years, we have projected about $31 million dollars in upgrades,” said Jakubeit. “We need to start making some decisions on whether we repair or replace those facilities and does it make sense to consolidate some of the buildings and services under one roof to gain some efficiencies.”
As a first step, council has asked city staff to prepare a more detailed report over the next three months.
“No decisions have been made. This is just the start, I would argue, of a long process, and as we get a bit more information, the next step would be going out to the community and saying ‘here are some monumental changes to our facilities, what are your thoughts?’” said Jakubeit. “I would think 2016 will be a year of getting that information and going out to the community and 2017 onwards is where we would start to budget for it.”
Of that $31 million, one of the biggest costs is Memorial Arena, which is expected to need about $6 million in repairs and retrofits, but a new rink could be built to replace it for $8-12 million.
“Do you bite the bullet and replace it with a new structure? That’s obviously very sensitive and controversial, because of the storied history and memories of Memorial Arena,” said Jakubeit, adding that the public might decide preserving the iconic building and extending its life another 10 or 20 years was the way to go.
Another suggestion was to re-purpose the Trade and Convention Centre, which needs about $4 million in repairs, and consolidate the Penticton Library, museum, art gallery and even City Hall within its walls, eliminating annual subsidy of about $200,000, and avoid problems of declining convention business and increased competition in the form of an expansion to the private convention facilities at Lakeside Resort.
Jakubeit said that is an option council will consider, but pointed out there is more involved than looking at the facilities efficiencies contained in the report from operations director Mitch Moroziuk. Nor, he said, is council ready to make a decision about getting out of the convention business.
“The convention centre model is changing slightly, what is going to be the greatest utilization, or how else can we make the facility more multipurpose?” said Jakubeit. “If consolidating the convention centre is good structure wise, is it good from an economic impact? It is an economic driver, we need to look at it from that lens, not just facilities.”
Jakubeit suggested another option could be moving the library into the city hall building, and build a new civic tower in the lot behind it, with room for not only city hall, but the museum and art gallery on the lower floors, with residential condos above.
“To me, if you are going to combine facilities, it should be downtown,” said Jakubeit, adding that it would help with the ongoing downtown revitalization.
The report, which was delivered at a committee of the whole meeting Monday, was intended to give council an update on the aging facilities and the need to start addressing them, according to Jakubeit.
“We typically spend $1 million a year on facilities, when we should be spending over $3 million,” said Jakubeit. “We don’t have to make a decision today, but come tomorrow, there are some realities we have to deal with and we need to start planning how we are going to deal with them.”