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Banff admin pitches field house conversion at Fenlands rec centre

The user space at the Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre might look different in the near future
BANFF – Future plans of an ice rink at the Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre are under review, which might eventually see it breaking away from hockey sticks in favour of a year-round field house.

At Banff’s Governance and Finance Committee last month, town council members and administration discussed options for Arena 2 and other west wing space, which is currently unspoken for following the sale and departure of the Banff Hockey Academy (BHA) in May.

Administration was in favour of one option, which it pitched during the meeting with the proposal to convert the arena into a year-round field house and community hub for a wide-range of users.

“We had heard over the years in many, many municipal plans that we lack a community hub,” said Amanda Arbuckle, Banff’s manager of recreation services. “We lack a central gathering place where people can come together, connect with our neighbours, engage in social and recreational activities and by looking to diversifying the space, we may be able to provide that year-round to a diversity of users.”

A motion was passed directing administration to return to the Governance and Finance Committee in August with additional user options at the Fenlands for community feedback, on top of pros and cons of each option, and exploring financial impacts of each, including the proposed field house.

The Fenlands rec centre, operated by the Town of Banff, includes two ice rinks, four curling sheets, offices, concourse, and a concession and lounge area.

After the sale of BHA, now the South Alberta Hockey Academy in Dunmore, Alta., the academy’s lease was terminated at Fenlands where a dedicated wing was built with offices, dressing rooms, a physiotherapy room, storage, three high performances rooms and access to the rest of the facility. BHA contributed $120,000 per year on average in facility rental revenues for the Town.

“As the Fenlands was purposely built to include the operation of BHA, we now need to re-examine our plans moving forward and to make some decisions on where we’re going,” said Alison Gerrits, Banff’s director of community services.

Three possible scenarios were brought forward by administration for leasehold space at Arena 2, including a private lease like with BHA; public/non-profit partnership like with the Banff Curling Club; and a public entity run by the municipality, which includes the field house proposal.

The latter would offer the ability to modify the space based on communities needs, said Arbuckle.

“This model would also help ensure that resident access is prioritized first and I believe that’s one of the No. 1 requests we’ve had since I’ve been in here in the last three years,” said Arbuckle. “This would help achieve that.”

In administration’s proposal, it stated that within the Bow Valley, there currently isn’t a field house and it would not require facility expansion at the Fenlands. The proposal also included having a gym or fitness area included into the west wing space, which could be used as a revenue generator.

Arbuckle added that the price tag is estimated at $2.2 million for capital costs for amenity improvements in the proposal.

Councillor Peter Poole was in favour of administration returning to the committee with additional options for the space; a summary of how the space may be used for various options; financial impacts; and to further explore funding options for the field house proposal.

“I’m asking for a short, ordinary business case summary that shows our fixed overhead, our operating costs that’s variable and then what revenue we’re likely to have under these few different ones,” Poole said.

Coun. Corrie DiManno liked the concept of the multi-use field house and asked if the proposal would include art or library spaces, such as at Elevation Place in Canmore.

“We could ask all those questions at that time with the community and would obviously work with council to see where those things fit within the facility and how do we work those things in if they meet community needs and if there’s desire there,” Arbuckle said.

Coun. Grant Canning asked if the proposal would include a seasonable approach to convert the space back to an ice rink on demand.

Outside of a large destination event such as the Olympics, it would be unlikely, said Arbuckle.

The next Governace and Finance Committee meeting is scheduled for Monday morning (Aug. 10).

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

Jordan Small joined the Outlook in 2014 and covers the vast world of sports in the Bow Valley. A Barrie, Ont. native, he also wrote for RMO's Mountain Guide section and the MD of Bighorn beat.
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