The province has breathed new life into Wellesley’s plans for a new recreation centre, today (Thursday) pledging $16 million towards the $22-million project.
The provincial money gets plans back on track, says Chris Martin, chair of the Wellesley Township Recreation Centre Advisory Committee, who last year thought the community would have to fund the development on its own.
“I was ecstatic – I couldn’t believe it,” said Martin. “We had been turned down for funding a year ago, and realized that the township would probably have to go it alone, which would mean that we would have to think about different amenities that would fit into the new budget,” he said following Thursday announcement.
“But the province’s funding has given us everything that we were hoping for in the beginning, which is really what our community really needed all along.”
Senior government funding and donations from the community will both help ease the burden on the township tax base, notes Mayor Joe Nowak.
“One of the major benefits from receiving this funding from the province is [it’s] going to minimize the impact on the ratepayers,” he said.
But it’s not just the savings community members should be smiling about, as the new facility will open the doors for community involvement and organizations to thrive, Martin noted.
“Our expectation is that [the recreation centre] will become a hub for our community,” said Martin. “Whether it’s the Lions Club, the Apple Butter and Cheese Festival, the Wellesley Township Fall Fair, the youth groups, the senior groups, the hockey clubs – I expect this to be a significant node of connectedness in our community. Virtually everyone will have some connection to this place. And really, that’s what makes it the most exciting.”
A new rec. centre first gained momentum when a leaky roof closed the Wellesley arena, with the township initially determining the move might be permanent and advising the likes of the Wellesley Applejacks and minor hockey groups to make new arrangements.
“The building was condemned,” said Martin. “At that moment in time, it was understood that there would be no more hockey at that arena, and it really disrupted all of the ice programs.”
After an emergency fix was found for the roof, user groups determined the community had outgrown the capabilities of the arena and needed something that would last and support future generations.
“Now that we’ve got the new arena, those [ice sport] organizations can know that for the next 50 years there’s going to be ice at Wellesley Township,” said Martin.
With funding secured, the next step will be determining who’ll build the facility slated for a new site at Hutchison and Queens Bush roads.
“The RFPs [request for proposals] will be probably submitted within the next two or three weeks. We hope to have them returned by the end of August. And then council will make a decision on exactly who’s going to do this work and what it’s going to look like,” said Nowak.
The funding is part of new investments in new recreation facilities and upgrades to existing facilities.
“The government of Ontario is stepping up to support the Township of Wellesley with a $16-million investment for a brand-new recreation centre that will be enjoyed by all members of the community,” said Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris. “For two years, I have worked closely with Mayor Nowak and the township to move this forward and I am thrilled that shovels will be getting in the ground soon to bring this arena across the finish line.”
Construction is anticipated to begin in March 2022, with the recreation centre set to open in fall 2023.
“This new facility will last for generations,” said Nowak. “It’s going to be there for a long time.”