The Dawe Community Centre in Red Deer is currently being renovated. The project is expected to be completed on time and within the allocated budget. (Advocate file photo)

The Dawe Community Centre in Red Deer is currently being renovated. The project is expected to be completed on time and within the allocated budget. (Advocate file photo)

Red Deer city council approved $182,300 to start hiring staff for expanded G.H. Dawe Centre

The renovated centre is set to open in January 2023

The $44-million G.H. Dawe Community Centre renovation is on time and on budget — to be completed by next January, council heard on Monday.

But councillors were asked to approve an additional $182,300 on Monday so more staff could be hired later this year to prepare the centre’s expanded amenities for opening to the public in January 2023.

While some council members questioned why this request wasn’t made at budget time, Sarah Tittemore, vice-president of community services for the city, said administration had no certainty the money would be needed this year as the renovation project could have been much delayed due to COVID.

While some pandemic-related supply chain and continuity issues did come up, these didn’t cause undue delays, she added.

What was unexpected was the need to close the G.H. Dawe Community Centre from May 1-June 25 for construction. Tittemore said administration initially thought the centre could stay open for the duration. But they discovered this wasn’t possible because its systems were too interconnected with other complexes in the city.

“By running the community centre we would be needing to shut the other systems down…”

During the Dawe Centre’s closure, the pool, gym, preschool areas, childminding, fitness and meeting rooms will be unavailable. But the public will still be able to access the Dawe branch of the Red Deer Public Library.

Through this extensive renovation, the centre is gaining two NHL standard ice surfaces, as well as an expanded fitness area, outdoor spray park with washrooms, accessible change space, pool deck party room, and an additional north entrance from 67 Street and extra parking.

Once the new outdoor spray park opens next year, there will be 13.2 new full-time equivalent positions at the facility working in fitness, operations, customer service, and marketing. Tittemore said the bulk of these on-going salaries were already worked into the city’s annual budget.

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes called this project a big boon for the city — especially to residents of North Red Deer.

While some Red Deerians have been pushing for a new competition-sized aquatic centre, Wyntjes said that’s something that council will look at in future budgets. “We have to ensure the affordability of services can be retained,” she added, noting there’s “no sense” making big-ticket decisions if the only way to pay for them is to keep raising public admission fees, making them unaffordable.

Mayor Ken Johnston was among those on council who’s “thrilled” to see the Dawe project coming in on time and on budget.

Even if the $182,300 expenditure council approved out of operating reserves is viewed as an additional expense, it wouldn’t be a large exceedance on a large capital budget of this size, added Johnston.

The whole project is being paid for with $15.1 million from the federal government, $12.8 million from the province, and the remaining $6 million from municipal funds.

After the centre’s temporary closure this spring, the facility will re-open on June 26, with some limitations.

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