Mayoral candidate Kerry Diotte during a mayoral forum put on by the City of Edmonton at Harry Ainlay Composite High School on October 1, 2013.
Photograph by: Ryan Jackson Ryan Jackson, Edmonton Journal
Edmonton can’t afford more “Taj Mahal” recreation centres and must look for partners to build future projects, mayoral candidate Kerry Diotte said Thursday.
The Terwillegar Recreation Centre cost almost $170 million, but pricetags that high aren’t affordable in the future, Diotte told the Journal editorial board.
“It’s frankly not sustainable, but we need the rec centres. Let’s be inventive and partner with our great charitable organizations and others,” he said.
“I would say sitting down with the new council and saying ‘Let’s go through this, where can we save this money,’ and push administration.”
For example, the city contributed only $4 million to the $24-million Don Wheaton YMCA, and about one-quarter of the roughly $50-million budget of the University of Alberta’s GO Centre, he said.
However, he agreed these structures are smaller and have far fewer facilities than Terwillegar, Edmonton’s first new recreation centre since the 1980s when it opened in 2011.
Terwillegar includes a 50-metre pool, a wave pool, a lazy river, a waterslide, a fitness centre and four NHL-sized ice rinks.
Diotte wouldn’t be pinned down on what would happen if partners able to cover a sufficient portion of construction costs can’t be found.
“I would say no more Taj Mahal rec centres without seeking partnerships. It’s something I will have to lead other councillors into … looking at the list of needs to be done.”
The $138-million Meadows Community Recreation Centre and library is under construction and scheduled to open next year, while a multi-purpose facility for Lewis Farms is being designed.
Diotte also said he’d like to see more small-scale development for cafes and bars in the North Saskatchewan River valley, although he’s not sure what should happen to the old Rossdale power plant.
In August, he voted for a plan to spend up to $7 million stabilizing the structure while city staff look at ways to overhaul it for tenants.
However, one report has estimated the price of installing mechanical, plumbing, heating and electrical systems, as well as putting in floors and other improvements, at $80 million.
“I’m still not 100-per-cent convinced that we should put $80 million into that industrial plant. I went for a tour of that, and I tell you, anyone who’s in favour of throwing all that money in there should take a tour. It’s rough,” he said.
“Some of it could be saved in some manner — honour it with bricks — but $80 million? Then who do you rent it to? … It might end up being great for artists, but is that going to pay the bills?”
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