Arena upgrade delay frustrates mayor

A decision to delay upgrades to Lacombe’s Barnett Arena has left Mayor Steve Christie and other council members frustrated.

A decision to delay upgrades to Lacombe’s Barnett Arena has left Mayor Steve Christie and other council members frustrated.

Council has wrestled with whether to spend $10 million to bring the facility up to modern safety codes or add in further upgrades, such as dressing room improvements, at a cost of $14.2 million.

Neither option was chosen on Monday. Instead, council opted in a 4-3 vote to put the project on the back burner for three months and direct administration to discuss sharing costs with neighbouring municipalities on a regional recreational facility, which could cost $60 million to $70 million.

Christie said on Wednesday that both renovation options presented to council were based on a “worse case scenario” in which no financial help was envisioned from neighbouring communities.

“It didn’t make sense to me,” he said, adding he was confident the county would be willing to help with the upgrades as they have with other projects such as the Encana Field House and Lacombe Memorial Centre.

“Quite frankly, in my mind there’s no doubt the county wouldn’t help with the $14 million.

“We hadn’t gone and asked for money yet because there hadn’t been a decision made by council (on the renovations).”

Pursuing a new facility would not only be expensive but would double the town’s operational costs. Christie questions how feasible it would be to begin with.

Meanwhile, the town is facing closing the second floor of the complex until safety code upgrades are completed.

Delaying renovations to the arena will add about four per cent a year to costs, which means a $400,000 increase if the project is delayed a year.

In a news release issued after the decision, Coun. Reuben Konnik explained that a majority of council considered it “prudent” to consider another joint-use facility with other municipal partners before making a final decision on renovations.

“In three months time, a decision can be made on Option 1 ($10-million renovation) for renovations at the arena within the context of the aforementioned discussions, which can still be included in the 2015 budget.”

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