Prescott's Leo Boivin Community Centre. Photo: Courtney Crowder
Prescott Councillor Lee McConnell says the new arena in town will be in the wrong place in the north end.
In December, Council approved designs for a new arena near the public works building. McConnell was one of the Councillors that voted against it in the 4-2 vote to approve.
McConnell says the north end spot is out of sight. He adds the reason that place was chosen was because it was already owned by the town but, in his opinion, that should not be a deciding factor. He also says it was chosen because it would be big enough for an arena and a parking lot for roughly 250 cars which is required, approximately, by Prescott’s building by-law.
McConnell says he’s looking for a discussion Council never had. He adds Council was presented by staff with a location and a design without any input from Council whatsoever. McConnell says that was wrong. He says while staff were given direction to expedite the process of a new arena in Augusta, the discussion process disappeared between then and December.
Mayor Brett Todd says funding will be coming available this year in July or August and that is why they need to stay on course with this site.
“If we don’t get that funding this year, I don’t know when we would ever get that funding. This is an opportunity that hasn’t come along in a decade and may not come along for another decade.”
In terms of grants, McConnell says it is understandable why Council might want to be shovel-ready but the rink the town is planning to build is in the neighbourhood of $10-million. He adds the town can’t afford to build a $10-million arena.
“We do not have the borrowing capacity to do that without putting the town in a horrendous financial situation for the next several decades. So, we have to come up with, depending on the actual cost of the rink, probably seven to eight million dollars from somewhere.”
McConnell says he would put the rink on the corner of East and King Street. McConnell says the northern site for the arena does not have any water, sewer, gas, electricity or sidewalks. He adds it would likely cost well over $1-million to develop that site, where the site in the south has all of those things already. He says if the arena is at the edge of the downtown, it will have many benefits. McConnell says the Shakespeare people will have extra washrooms in the summer and the marina staff right next door could look after it in the summer. All winter you would have washrooms available to people who are walking downtown and because of the slope of the land you could probably access the walking track from the street without using stairs.
Todd says he does support the northern site for the arena. He says it is adjacent to the 401 for visibility. It’s also connected to a number of ball fields, skateboard parks and soccer fields. Todd adds the soil on the site McConnell is talking about is contaminated and they don’t know what the exact cost would be to clean it up but, from what the town has seen, it would be considerable. He says the town only has a couple of acres downtown and it’s not enough space for the arena and the parking, they would need to acquire additional lands from the Federal Government which they are very certain is also contaminated from industrial usage for a better part of a century. Todd says the feds have also never given Prescott any indication they would sell or lease that land to the town.
“In order to move downtown, I don’t think it’s a good site, personally, anyways for a lot of reasons. But the complications and the added costs, everything else around that location, just doesn’t make it a good option for us, in my opinion.”
McConnell says the money for preparing the north site could be transferred over to the south site and there are already three parking lots that exist within a block of his suggested site. Those parking lots are the one directly north of the marina, the newly constructed one at RiverWalk Park and also the parking lot on Vankoughnet Street for the fort.
Todd adds the engineers have already started on the plans that were presented to Council in that December 10th meeting. He says they are going up to Queen’s Park on Monday and present those plans to Minister of Infrastructure Monte McNaughton.