Artificial city

City Council agrees to hear more about artificial turf and dome idea

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City Council voted 7 to 2 in favor of gathering more information about a proposed artificial turf pitch and 1/3 pitch dome at Victoria Park.

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But advisers were reluctant to take on further financial obligations and made it clear that the project may ultimately be turned down. The cost of such an installation should be between 2.2 and 2.6 million dollars.

The board agreed to pursue a memorandum of understanding involving the city, minor football and other parties on site development, visit comparable sites, further investigate site conditions, confirm interest and engagement of potential users, to seek infrastructure and capital grants to assist with construction, and remain open to other potential sites.

Com. Travis Dodd, who chairs the community services committee that approved the collection of more information, expressed doubts about the project. “Do I want to be the leader? Nope.”

He noted that a study by a consultant found that “the financial viability wasn’t there if we didn’t have a major partner like the school board.”

Mayor Ian Boddy questioned the feasibility of the project and asked if user interest expressed to consultant Michael Cleland of RC Strategies would evaporate, as he said among ice users at the Julie McArthur Regional Recreation Center .

“I agree that we need more information on who is going to pay the freight,” Boddy said. He acknowledged the adviser’s concern. Brock Hamley, who voted against the motion, that once council pursues the idea, it gains momentum and community expectations rise.

“They need to understand as we move forward on this file that we can and most likely will say no if it’s a big expense for the city,” Boddy said, noting that debenture payments from the center of hobbies are still 17 years old.

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Cleland found that the required population base for an artificial turf and dome facility is around 65,000, which exists within 30 minutes of the city.

But the town’s population, at less than 22,000, “is probably too small for an artificial field to be financially viable,” he said in a report approved by the Community Services Committee on March 16.

The city partnered with Owen Sound Minor Soccer to produce the study.

Minor soccer would likely be a “primary” and “significant” user of the facility, with other potential users being field lacrosse, ball organizations (for practice), and adult field organizations. A floor could also be laid over the artificial turf for activities such as pickle ball.

But the con. Scott Grieg, the other person who voted against the motion, pointed out “I think the study ignores that participation in minor football has gone from 1,227 participants in 2012 to around 500 now.”

He suggested that demographics and an increase in the number of Amish families not enrolling their children in underage sports might explain why.

Proposed ancillary uses of the dome, as a walking track or for weddings, replicate what is offered at the Lumley-Bayshore Community Center, he said. Booking the new land would cannibalize revenue from other venues in the city, he added.

Pam Coulter, director of community services for the city, noted that revenue from renting the Kiwanis football complex over the course of a year is between $16,000 and $18,000, which is not a significant number. within the entire city budget.

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Greig also cited the recreation center, noting that for “the first time” the municipal tax support for the recreation center exceeded that of Lumley-Bayshore.

With the city’s median household income being among the lowest among comparable communities in the province, the city should focus grant opportunities on needs such as art gallery storage, road and infrastructure repair, and others, he said.

Com. Carol Merton agreed that Greig had raised valid concerns and suggested that the wording of the MOU “presumed” its success. But she confirmed that the council had just agreed to ask for more information and supported it.

Com. Marion Koepke said, “I’m definitely not in favour, at this time, of spending capital money on a project like this.” But she supported the motion to gather information.

Com. John Tamming noted the sharp decline in football participation cited by Greig and questioned whether it was related to the COVID-19 pandemic. “For me, it would be a real shame not to explore this further. But on the other hand, is the feasibility there? I do not know.”

Deputy Mayor Brian O’Leary said he was voting to pursue the idea so as not to discourage future proposals from the community.

Maybe people will show up with a lot of money to enable the project, he said, but added: “That probably wouldn’t happen. But it’s not for me to decide now whether that will happen or not.

The consultant’s report follows mention in a 2018 leisure parks master plan of the desirability of an artificial turf pitch. Boddy noted that the council had rejected the idea once before.

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