The city has taken an initial step toward a long-promised community centre in Nanaimo’s south end.
City councillors, at a finance and audit committee meeting Wednesday, recommended spending $200,000 from reserves on a feasibility study and conceptual design for a recreation centre somewhere south of Tenth Street. The money will be used for public engagement, designs and project phasing.
Richard Harding, the city’s manager of parks, recreation and culture, said the project was an objective in the 2005 parks and rec master plan and has been put aside for “many, many years.”
“The community’s been very patient of us going forward to at least get to the next stage of what could this facility be,” Harding said. “And I would say at the end of the day it wouldn’t be [just] recreation, it would probably be more of a community recreation and wellness type of centre.”
Coun. Sheryl Armstrong wondered if the city could save the $200,000 for a feasibility study and just copy the design of the Oliver Woods Community Centre. Harding said for one thing, a location hasn’t been identified, and said there may also be opportunities to incorporate a number of different amenities into a south-end community centre, for example child-care space, health services and a library. He mentioned Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools, the Boys and Girls Club and other agencies as potential partners.
“It won’t be apples and apples with Oliver Woods,” Harding said. “There’s definitely some things at Oliver Woods that work extremely well and we could have two or three of those going in a non-pandemic year and there’d be demand for it. But I also think in this community there’s some other services that we may want to consider that would be included that [are] not included in Oliver Woods.”
Coun. Ian Thorpe said the city’s population is booming “and about to explode” in the south end and said residents have been asking for facilities there.
“I think that’s one of the city’s duties to provide, as well as things like garbage and water and public safety, is recreational facilities and opportunities,” he said.
Mayor Leonard Krog agreed, saying everyone deserves access to recreation and adding that the feasibility study and concept plans will signal to south-end residents that the city takes their concerns seriously. He mentioned that the city will end up with $200,000 worth of important information that could provide guidance around a possible referendum question on borrowing for a community centre.
Armstrong added that planning work on the community centre will help prepare the city for any potential infrastructure grant opportunities, and Coun. Erin Hemmens agreed.
“I do appreciate the idea of having a shovel-ready project for all of the money that’s flowing from the province right now,” she said.
Committee members voted unanimously to recommend that $200,000 come from the special initiatives reserve for the study.
The Sandstone master plan official community plan amendment application, currently under review, mentions that land will be made available for community services and amenities such as a community centre in the “town centre precinct” west of the RDN landfill in Cedar, and also expresses a willingness to explore opportunities to provide land for a community centre in the Cinnabar Valley neighbourhood.