Vernon city councillors showed interest in building out a new recreation facility in full at the Kin Race Track site and go to referendum to borrow up to $90 million during the regular meeting May 25, 2020. (City of Vernon)

Vernon council supports $90M rec centre

Referendum required if recreation partners in District of Coldstream and RDNO back it too

Vernon city councillors are in favour of building a new recreation centre at the Kin Race Track site completely, rather than in stages.

Council also supported the option to go to referendum to borrow up to $90 million to achieve this. Now, Recreation Services has to present the findings to its partners in the District of Coldstream and Electoral Areas B and C before the next steps can be taken.

“In order to go to referendum, we require unanimous support and direction from the elected officials of all the Greater Vernon Recreation Services funding partners,” Recreation Services director Doug Ross said.

At the regular meeting of council on May 25, Ross reviewed the findings of the Active Living Centre Feasibility Study which found a resounding need for new indoor recreation opportunities.

The goal of the study was to find an indoor facility mix that meets the current and future needs of a growing community, while also having the opportunity to attract new residents and visitors to the Greater Vernon area.

“We have done a significant amount of public engagement and consultation during this study,” Ross said. “We have spoken with and received feedback from thousands of Greater Vernon residents through pop-up events, stakeholder sessions, an open house, an online survey, an elected official’s workshop, and most recently, a statistically-valid controlled mail survey.”

Based on the findings of the study, the recommendation is to build a brand new facility on the Kin Race Track which would include a 50-metre pool, leisure pool, double gymnasium, fitness centre, walking/running track and multi-purpose spaces.

Ross said the feedback received is consistent with Recreation Service’s Master Plan.

“Each of the recreation spaces identified in the recommendation received strong public support – particularly a 50m pool – with an understanding that the construction and operation of a new or expanded facility would require an increase in taxation,” Ross said.

To build out a facility with the amenities requested by Greater Vernon residents, it would cost approximately $83 million “if built at one time,” Ross said.

Annual operating costs of a new fully developed facility would run around $1.4 million, including the savings realized through the decommissioning of the Vernon Aquatic Centre.

“If the full facility was built at one time, the tax implication for the debt servicing and operation of the facility for the average Greater Vernon household is estimated to be approximately $167 annually,” Ross said. “This amount could be reduced if we are able to secure grant funding or sponsorship dollars, but we don’t know what opportunities may exist in those areas at this time.”

Ross said as everyone navigates the effects of COVID-19, it would be four or five years before the doors would open on a new facility.

“This is a significant investment for our region and projects of this size take time and require careful consideration,” he said. “We look forward to presenting the results of this study to our partners in the near future and to continue discussing how we might be able to take this project from the conceptual stage to a reality.”

READ MORE: $113K boost for North Okanagan charities on COVID-19 frontline

READ MORE: POLL: Drinks in the park in Vernon?


@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

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