Town to apply for ICIP funding to expand Palmerston arena

MINTO – The Town of Minto will apply for funding to assist with a $2 million renovation proposal for the Palmerston arena through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP).

The ICIP shares costs between the federal government, provinces, municipalities and other recipients, providing up to 73 per cent grant funding for approved projects. The program will involve spending of $30 billion in combined federal, provincial and other partner funding, under four priority areas, including community, culture and recreation. With the deadline for this application on Nov. 12, Minto’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) discussed potential projects at the Sept. 30 meeting, including:

– a new multi-purpose facility on a site to be determined;

– major renovation and expansion of the Palmerston and District Community Centre; and

– new seats and interior renovations for the Harriston Town Hall Theatre.

PRAC passed a motion endorsing both the new facility and the Palmerston arena expansion.

At the Oct. 15 council meeting, a staff report from acting CAO Chris Harrow and recreation  services manager Matt Lubbers, in a report on the town’s Recreation, Culture and Facilities Master Plan initiative, provided cost estimates and additional potential projects for town council to consider under the Rehabilitation and Renovation stream of the grant program:

– Palmerston arena renovations (dressing rooms, ball field, site development) $2,000,000;

– former Harriston trailer park property re-design and upgrade (landscape plan, re-purposing of open space and flood reduction) $500,000;

– Clifford Rotary Park refurbishment (parking lot upgrades, tree planting, buffering) $250,000; and

– Harriston Town Hall Theatre upgrades (seating replacement and interior renovations) $100,000.

The report indicates the town’s recreation master planning process hasn’t reached the point where an application for a new multi-purpose facility is likely to be successful.

“Staff is aware members of council, various committees, stakeholders and ratepayers believe the town should apply for a new arena and community center under the multi-purpose stream. This new facility would replace the three arenas. The main concern is that this project is not currently identified as a ‘priority lifecycle activity’ in the town’s asset management plan. This would almost certainly eliminate this project from consideration in this (ICIP) intake, particularly with the application due by Nov. 12,” the report states.

The report states the business case for such a project would be much stronger once the master plan is finished. 

“The master plan will make it clear the size such a facility might be (one, two or more ice pads), its best location and other elements in the project (curling, cultural facilities etc.).”

Harrow told council the current intake marks the first time since 2006 there has been grant funding available for recreation and cultural projects. 

Lubbers explained the committee felt the fact replacement of arenas is not currently a top priority in the town’s asset management plan could hinder an application for a new facility.

“Our arenas aren’t brand new, but they aren’t dilapidated either,” said Lubbers.

However, Lubbers noted the increasing number of minor hockey teams playing “half-ice” hockey puts more pressure on facilities, with more dressing rooms needed to accommodate games and tournaments.

“Just from the minor hockey perspective, next year they’re looking at the Atoms going to half ice as well. That’s just another age group and that’s more dressing rooms,” said councillor Geoff Gunson.

Mayor George Bridge expressed concern applying for a major Palmerston  arena renovation could impact future efforts to secure funding for a new multi-purpose facility, if that ends up being the direction indicated by the master plan.

“I wonder if you don’t go with one of the smaller ones this time around and get a little bit of money,” said Bridge, adding “and the other one I thought would have been the theatre, because it makes sense.”

“Two million is a small one when it comes to this (grant program),” said councillor Ron Elliott.

Compared to anticipated applications from other communities for new arenas in the $10 million to $15 million range, “I can see the government saying a $2 million project is more in line that we would like to do,” he said.

Elliott stated, “the Palmerston arena is used a lot more than the other two arenas (in Harriston and Clifford). I think it was also thought that arena is probably good for another 30 or 40 years.”

Harrow pointed out there is more land available for possible expansion at the Palmerston site. 

Bridge cautioned that if funding was received to renovate the Palmerston facility “that pretty much eliminates (a new facility) in your Master Recreation Plan in my mind.”

“It may, but you may be able to add something (an additional ice pad) to it … so that doesn’t eliminate it totally,” Elliott replied.

Harrow cautioned, “it’s going to be an extremely difficult grant to get. You’re going to be one of the lucky ones if you get in this round. So make sure the public knows that this is not a guarantee.”

Councillor Jean Anderson asked if the town could apply for a couple of projects, rather than just one. 

“I’m thinking the theatre, because we’re all talking rec but there’s other components to culture and recreation, and the theatre is a well-used establishment … and the park is another example, the trailer park, people are enjoying the green spaces.”

Treasurer and acting clerk Gordon Duff said making more than one application “is an option.”

The motion was passed with Turton, Elliott, Bridge, Gunson and councillors Mark MacKenzie and Judy Dirksen in favor and Anderson opposed.

“We’re still going to look at other ways and other applictions … to see if we can get some funding to realize those other projects too,” Harrow stated after the motion was approved.