News Local

Limitations of proposed rec facility site 'becoming obvious'

By Sara Carson, Orillia Packet & Times


Orillia’s James Street recreation facility site likely can’t handle a full fitness centre, says Coun. Patrick Kehoe.

“The limitations of the location are already becoming obvious,” Kehoe said Tuesday. “(A fitness centre is) going to put a strain on parking overall because the site is limited.”

Along with an aquatic centre and double gymnasium, city politicians are considering amenities including a walking track, babysitting room and fitness centre at the David H. Church Public School property at 228 James St. E.

A traditional full-sized fitness centre — at 10,000 square feet — would cost the city an estimated $3.17 million.

At Monday’s recreation facilities committee meeting, Coun. Tony Madden questioned the amount of parking.

“... I wonder if that’s something we should be concerned about as far as service level,” he said.

MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects has designed the property with 224 to 226 parking spaces.

Project architect Robert Allen said the parking is adequate for the proposed program, but not if a full fitness centre is added.

“... If in fact 10,000 square feet of fitness centre were part of the program of this building, we would share the concern that we would need to revisit the parking because we may be a little low on that,” he said.

If Orillia only added a yoga room/aerobics facility rather than a full fitness centre, “that would certainly make us breathe a little bit easier on the parking count,” Allen said.

Parking isn’t the only concern.

A 10,000-square-foot fitness facility won’t fit within the proposed building’s footprint of 66,700 square feet.

“Not without sacrificing something else,” Kehoe said.

Madden wants to see the full fitness centre included in Orillia’s recreation complex.

“... Competitive user groups have a need to be able to dry-land train while they’re running the swimming and gymnasium programming,” he said.

A fitness centre would also generate revenue for the facility.

The James Street site’s operational costs are expected to be $680,000 for its first year.

Kehoe agreed the site should be accommodating to health-care practitioners for physiotherapy and preventative medicine and education facilities for sports medicine and kinesiology.

“They provide user fees and those user fees offset our costs and reduce the burden on the taxpayer,” he said. “There is no accommodation for them on this site.”

Madden said he’s raised red flags about the site’s size from the start.

“I had all these concerns about the size of the James Street site and the ability to be able to fit the programming in and still provide adequate parking,” he said.

Coun. Linda Murray noted the city didn’t put a café in the new Orillia Public Library as it would be competing against private enterprise.

“We also have a lot of fitness centres in Orillia and that’s something for us to consider as we move forward,” she said.

Murray said the city can’t be “everything for everybody.”

“Although conditioning and such ... is important, this is the location we have chosen,” she said. “I think we have to be mindful and creative with the challenges as we go forward and not assume the 10,000-square-foot fitness centre is what we have to have.”

The city could have developed a fitness centre at no cost, Kehoe said.

Two groups had expressed interest in operating a full fitness facility.

“They would have required 10,000 square feet, plus,” Kehoe said. “It could cost us nothing.”

Both Kehoe and Madden are prepared to discuss moving the aquatic centre and double gymnasium to a different location.

“There are many that do not want to have the location discussion again,” Kehoe said. “To me, we’re doing the right thing at the wrong location.”

A business case should be made for developing on the James Street site, the councillor said.

“As far as council’s concerned, the location discussion is over and done,” Kehoe said. “... My issue is, well then, make the business case for it because it should be made prior to selecting the site.”

Madden wants to see the city construct a recreation complex that will guarantee economic spinoff.

“There’s no opportunity to grow our tax base with spinoff development because the James Street site is landlocked by a residential neighbourhood,” he said. “Why we’re wasting all of our time and money on this (site) is beyond me.”

Two West Street South brownfield sites were initially considered as recreation centre sites.

“I have no problem committing $1 million a year to an operating deficit if I knew as an investment it was growing our tax base by increasing and revitalizing West Street,” Madden said. “As it stands on James Street, it’s not a good investment.”

If the city chooses to construct a 10,000-square-foot fitness centre at the James Street site, MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects will take another look at the parking, Allen said.

Twitter: @Sara_VRoss

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