Petition To Change Recreation Complex Is Heard by Russell Council

By Gabrielle Vinette
Petition To Change Recreation Complex Is Heard by Russell Council
During the Russell Council meeting on June 10, the Council met with residents who petitioned to make changes to the Recreation Complex plans. (Photo : File photo)

Over 140 residents were present at the last Russell Council meeting to voice their concerns over the size of the changerooms and the seating capacity of the proposed Recreation Complex. 

One of the main concerns raised was the size of the change rooms. During the meeting, Council staff presented a comparison between the new complex change room and our existing facilities such as the Frank Kinnaird Russell Arena and the Palais des sports Embrun Arena. 

According to the presentation, the changing rooms are an upgrade from the existing facilities. 

In the Russell arena, the overall size is 530 square feet with 54 linear feet of bench space for changing, 24 square feet of shower space with two shower heads that are not accessible, 26 square feet for the toilet with no door for privacy. 

In the Embrun arena, the overall size is 405 square feet with 47 linear feet of bench for changing, 74 square feet of shared space with other team’s changeroom, and two shower heads that are not accessible. 

In the new Recreation Complex, the plan lays out that the changing rooms would have an overall size of 732 square feet with 54 linear feet of bench space for changing, plus an additional five linear feet of private bench space. There will be 118 square feet of shower space with two shower heads and two more accessible shower heads, a dedicated sink and an accessible toilet. 

Currently there are 12 changing rooms for the three ice rinks available. During the presentation, residents said that is too little. Consideration of the number of rooms needed, especially with the increasing number of half-ice games and practices versus the need for a warmup room, were noted. 

“I’m comfortable with 12 rooms and I did a little bit of research on some studies there, but it is a fact that there is a lot more half-ice practices for the young kids,” said newly appointed Mayor Mike Tarnowski during the back-and-forth. “Is there a way to somehow have space for one additional room or something? … I wouldn’t mind having the architect’s point of view on that,” said Mayor Tarnowski. 

Seating capacity remains a concern 

The current rink capacities for the Embrun arena are 350 seats with 75 standing room, the Russell arena has 110 seats while the Recreation Complex will have 250 seats and standing room for 150 people at the first rink, 125 seats and standing room for 30 people at the second rink, and, finally, the third rink will have 117 seats ad room for 80 people to stand. 

Residents ultimately requested more seating at the main rink and asked Council to consider potential growth. 

“It holds enough people. The facility that we’re building will hold enough people for tournaments. I struggle with that because, trust me, the arenas are something I am very passionate about and hockey is something I’m very passionate about. But we also have to understand the realistic wants versus the needs,” said Councillor Jamie Laurin.  

Laurin added that the new facility will allow the municipality to host tournaments and support the local minor hockey associations all in one facility without them having to purchase ice time in other municipalities. 

Attendance numbers indicate arena meets current needs 

In response to the demand for more seats from residents, the administration reviewed attendance data for the past three years for the junior team to show the proposed seating would generally meet, and exceed, current needs, with the occasional exception during playoff and rival matches. 

Council made their decision by analyzing attendance levels of the current Junior C team. The data from the reported crowd numbers was gathered on the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League (EOJHL) website. 

During the EOJHL 2021-2022 regular season with 21 games in Embrun, the average attendance was 87 with the largest crowd rising to 134 people. The playoffs that year attracted 406 people to the three post-season games. 

For the 2022-2023 season, with the same number of games, the average crowd was of 109 people, the largest turnout coming to 267 people.  

In 2023-2024, 22 games were played in Embrun with an average crowd size of 109 people, and the largest crowd being of 289 people. 

During the EOJHL 2021 to 2022 playoff season, for three games, the average crowd in Embrun was of 406 people with the largest crowd was 485 people. 

For the 2022 to 2023 season, with five games, the average crowd was of 399 and the largest crowd was 583. 

During the most recent playoff season of this year, with five games, the average crowd was of 291, and the largest crowd was 388. 

What Are the Next Steps for The Recreation Complex? 

The tendering process for the Recreation Complex closed June 10 at 3:00 p.m. Bids is already public on the Bids & Tenders website. 

The municipality received 13 submissions for the prequalification process for the general contractor. With all documentations reviewed by the design consultant, the project manager, and the township staff, an overall score of 70 points or more was needed to move to the next step. Eight companies qualified and were given the construction project. Three companies bid on the project. 

 A Special Council meeting was held on Monday, June 17, at 5 p.m. to present the bids and financial plans for the Recreation Complex. 

According to the website, the three companies that bid on the project were Pomerleau Inc. bid $91 million, McDonald Brothers Construction Inc bid $86.075 million, and Buttcon Limited bid $104.899 million. 

With the feedback received at the Special Council meeting, the administration will recommend to Council to give the contract for the construction of the Recreation Complex on June 24 to McDonald Brothers Construction Inc. 

During the Special Council meeting, Council presented the planned total project capital budget. Construction cost of $86.075 million is planned to include the three ice rinks, the pool, and the community hall. Another $18,234,044 will be added for other costs to consider such as consultants, interest on construction loan, land, fees and permits, furniture and equipment, and other. The anticipated total project costs are $104,309,044. 

The administration brought forward two scenarios to finance the project cost at the end of the construction. 

The first scenario is in a term of 25 years at a 4.72 per cent interest rate. Monthly payments would be $454,403, yearly payments would be $5,454,831, for a total term interest $56,375,666 to be paid. 

The second scenario is in a term of 30 years the same interest rate. The monthly and yearly payments would be lower, at $415,587 monthly, and $4,987,046 yearly, but would bring the total term interest to be paid higher at $69,666,265. 

With the analysis of the impact on debt borrowing capacity, and the financial projections, risks to consider such as unexpected costs and construction delays, and opportunities to consider, the administration recommends moving forward with the construction project with the 30-year term. 

Changes made on the blueprint of the Recreation Complex but the bigger they are, the higher the cost will be and longer the delays of constructions. 

“Minor changes can be evaluated and discussed with the contractor, knowing that whatever changes are made, however minor they are, you’re going to get a credit from the original design for less than the value of what is being built if you build a new arranged change,” said a representative of project management consultants, Turner & Townsend.

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