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Committee pushing ahead with plans for new rec. centre

Much may be on hold during the COVID-19 crisis, but plans for building a new rec. facility in Wellesley continue apace.

It’s been a year since the township deemed a leaky roof at the Wellesley arena made the building unsafe, initially opting to close it for the entire 2019-20 season. Ultimately, repairs were made as a stopgap measure, with the community rallying in favour of a new, larger recreation centre in the village.

That effort was spearheaded by long-time Wellesley resident Chris Martin, who brought members of the community together under the auspices of the Wellesley Township Recreation Centre Advisory Committee.  The group developed a wish list of amenities that includes an NHL-sized ice rink with seating and standing room for 1,000, eight change rooms, space for the Wellesley Applejacks, a community hall, gym and youth centre, as well as a number of outdoor fields and trails. A location was identified on township parkland at Queens Bush and Hutchison roads.

“Our community centre is adequate but very old, [the] one that’s existing right now, so there are lots of community needs that aren’t being met. We can’t run kids camp programs, the YMCA can’t partner; we were just struggling as a town, and we’ve been quite complacent – I guess the user groups were content with the inadequate, not modern facilities, so I sort of asked everyone to look towards the future and not to the past,” said Martin, who is chair of the advisory committee. “Our group basically became the community advocacy group for the township, so I was working very closely with township, staff and the mayor.”

The new building is estimated to cost $22-million, with all three levels of government contributing funds to help with the construction. Martin says the township applied for an infrastructure grant last year – something he says came at a fortuitous time – which would cover up to 70 per cent of the cost, with the rest coming from the township itself.

Martin says they are still awaiting the decision by the government on their proposal, but they are confident that the application will pass and the funding will come. He says if by some chance they do not get the funding, the township needs to prepare to find a way to fund the creation of the new centre, as the repairs to the current arena are short-term.

“We feel our project is very, very worthy. So, it sort of meets other criteria and the township in the meantime because the arena – it’s been basically on a short-term repair – they need to do something anyway. Whether or not we get the infrastructure funding, they need to start to prepare. … Nobody knows what would take place if we didn’t get the funding, so we build what we’ve proposed or we build just one portion of it with the phases over many, many years,” added Martin.

Kitchener-Conestoga MP Tim Louis supports the creation of the new recreation centre in the township, and hopes it moves ahead in the near future.

“I’ve also passed on that information to the Ministry of infrastructure and hoping that I can advocate for the project. I think it would be a great addition to the community and there would be a great gathering place that’s got multi uses. Right now, the decision falls under the provincial jurisdiction. But as they get the green light to that project, I’m ready to back it and put whatever advocacy I can to support it,” said Louis.

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