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Wellesley looks to push ahead with new rec. complex

The township will push ahead with a new recreation complex in Wellesley even if that means funding most of the project itself.

Meeting Tuesday night, councillors looked at four options, including putting everything on hold for a future day before deciding to push ahead with a new building, albeit one with scaled-back budget of $15 million rather than the $22 million originally proposed.

The township’s initial plan counted on federal and/or provincial funding of some $16 million, but it learned last spring a grant would not be forthcoming. By scaling back the project, Wellesley would finance the construction itself.

With an estimated $2.5 million in community fundraising plus an additional $1 million from the sale of existing land, the township would have to borrow $11.5 million to pay for a $15-million multi-use rec. complex. A report from recreation director Danny Roth estimates the average household would face a cost of $180 per year to pay back the debenture over 20 years. 

Councillors voted unanimously January 19 to press ahead with a request for proposals to find a contractor to carry out the project, rejecting three other options in Roth’s report: renovate the existing Wellesley arena; build a new facility in stages over a 10-year period; or put the entire project on hold until a later date.

Renovating the existing Wellesley arena, including a new roof, exterior cladding, adding six new dressing rooms and replacing the refrigeration plant would cost an estimated $5.5 to $8.3 million. At the higher figure, borrowing costs would run the average homeowner about $133 a year over the span of 20 years.

The third option, building over time with a new arena in 2022, a youth centre in 2027 and a gymnasium in 2032, wasn’t costed out, but Roth noted “Phased in approaches typically cost more in the long run, as it is generally more cost effective to do everything at once when it comes to construction of a building.”

Chris Martin, chair of the Wellesley Township Recreation Centre Advisory Committee, noted that renovating the current arena would leave many behind as the building simply does not meet the needs of all user groups, but he also highlighted the importance of what the new rec. centre would bring to the township.

“We feel the greatest impact of this rec. centre, and what will touch the most people in our community, is the portion that exists beyond the arena. In particular, the youth and senior centres. The need for space for them to gather is of great importance. Both groups have highlighted the improved quality of life and outcomes that come from a physical place to gather and the proximity to resource organizations that can catch those who are falling behind, before they fall behind,” he told councillors.

“This [type of] space doesn’t currently exist in our township, so it’s challenging to know what we’re missing, but we only need to look to neighbouring communities like Wilmot and Woolwich, where their youth and senior centers thrive.”

Rosslyn Bentley, executive director of the Woolwich Community Health Centre (WCHC), also supported a new complex, indicating the organization is looking to partner with the township to put WCHC space in the centre.

She noted that “health and wellbeing are more than just access to medical care,” adding that a WCHC presence in a new rec. complex would provide additional benefits to township residents.

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