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North Bay reveals plans for net-zero community centre

Federal government commits $25.77 million for "leading edge" facility

The City of North Bay has received a $25.77-million investment from the Government of Canada to help with the construction costs of the proposed North Bay Community Recreation Centre. 

Nipissing-Timiskaming MP Anthony Rota made the announcement at the Steve Omischl Complex on Lakeshore Drive on June 11, in front of  an enthusiastic crowd representing local sports and community groups.

 “The funds will help with the cost of the architecture and engineering design, construction and commissioning of a net-zero-carbon, fully accessible 85,000-square-foot multi-purpose community and recreation centre,” Rota told those gathered.

The funding comes from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Communities, through the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings Program.

Rota said creating a facility with a zero carbon footprint is what caught the minister’s attention.

“This is leading edge. This is something that the City of North Bay and the whole of Nipissing-Timiskaming can be very proud of.”

Rota further outlined all the facility will have to offer.

“It includes two ice pads, a walking track and a multi-use meeting space. This will better meet the underserviced needs of the region with special considerations to citizens with disabilities in Nipissing-Timiskaming,” Rota explained.

“The facility will allow additional sports and recreational programming that is currently unavailable in Nipissing-Timiskaming due to a lack of functional infrastructure and will be fully integrated into the Omischl Sports Complex.”   

Rota told the crowd this project will have a long-term positive impact not only on the city of North Bay but all the surrounding communities.  

“Now as we come out of COVID-19, it is time to invest in the shared public spaces that will bring people together and help grow communities so we can thrive in the future.”

North Bay Mayor Al McDonald called the project community-driven, saying they “hit it out of the park” with this design.

North Bay’s Mitchell Jensen Architects partnered with the design firm MJMA out of Toronto to design the facility.

“This was driven by the community wanting a new facility, not just a couple of ice surfaces. They wanted to include youth and seniors alike,” said McDonald.

The mayor indicated some people in attendance will be bringing their children and grandchildren to the facility 40 or 50 years from now.

“We cannot lose fact that recreation and a healthy active lifestyle is key to making a healthy community,” the mayor stated.

“We’re putting the foundation forward for growing our city, not only the job creation and population side but also the healthy, active  lifestyle that we’re trying to create here in our community.”

Roughly one year ago, the projected cost of the project was around $52 million.

But the actual cost won’t be known until tenders comes in, likely late fall, early winter.

“We budgeted about $40 million in our budget that we passed,” said McDonald.

“It still absolutely needs council’s approval to move forward, so it will come up to a future council meeting. I’m hopeful, my fingers are crossed that council will greenlight it to further the design and get the RFP (request for proposal) out,” said McDonald.

There is still some design tweaking to be done to meet the net-zero component.

“It is to ensure the facility meets the criteria of a net-zero carbon building,” explained city engineer John Severino.

“So there are standards that has to meet, and it will need to be certified at the end of the design, the end of the project, that it meets that criteria.”

Once the design is tweaked, “hopefully we’ll have council’s direction to tender it,” added Severino.

“The RFP will not be in until the next council, so the next council will actually have the final approval on if the community centre moves ahead or not,” said McDonald.

“But we do know with construction, every year you wait, prices are going up five to 10 per cent. So I’m hopeful with the $25 million it is hard to say ‘no’ to the fact that we’ve put almost $4 million into all the infrastructure and the planning, and the architects, that the next council will support this.”

The need for a new facility was driven by safety concerns over an aging West Ferris Arena.

While they wait for direction, the city hopes there is still enough life in the West Ferris arena to carry through until the puck drops in the new facility.

“We have to shovel off the snow (off the roof) for our citizens to be able to use that rink so you know the lifespan of that arena is done,” said McDonald.

As Severino explained, “We continuously monitor it. We have it reviewed by third-party engineers who give us a report every year. And every second or third year we do a condition assessment. So as far as we know we’re good for next year.”

The mayor says this project is going to bring a sense of pride for the community.

“The fact Anthony Rota stepped up with over $25 million goes to show we’re doing everything we can to be responsible financially, but also to move our community forward. No one wants to move to a community where there are no amenities and this is just a wonderful amenity we can use to help promote our city going forward,”  said McDonald.

The hope to have shovels in the ground next spring.  

McDonald says once construction begins, it is expected to take between a year and a half to two years to complete.  

— BayToday