‘It’s a huge day:’ Edmonton city council approves two long-awaited recreation centres to be funded through tax-supported debt

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West Edmonton resident Rebecca Goldsack can’t wait for the day she doesn’t have to drive to another city to take her two boys to swimming lessons.

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That day is one step closer to becoming a reality after city council approved funding for the long-awaited $311-million Lewis Farms Recreation Centre and Library during 2022 budget deliberations Tuesday. The new facility on the western outskirts of the city has been a long time coming, first identified as a priority back in 2005 as new neighbourhoods were developed.

Serving as the president of the Lewis Estates Community League for the past eight years, Goldsack said Tuesday’s decision was a long time coming and a momentous day for west end residents. The Lewis Farms project was previously approved by council in 2019, but then was put on hold indefinitely after funding reductions in the provincial budget.

“I could cry right now. I’m so excited. This has been a huge project that we’ve had many hurdles to overcome with budgetary restraints and it’s a huge day,” she said in an interview with Postmedia. “It’s so exciting to know I will be able to drive five minutes from my house to go to a rec centre and not have to drive to the next city over.”

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To fund the project, council approved $282.9 million in tax-supported debt over the next seven years. This will have a tax levy impact of just over one per cent spread out over the construction period. There will also be costs associated with staffing and operating the site once it is up and running, amounting to $7.7 million ongoing starting in 2027. Construction is set to begin next year with most of the design work already complete with an opening timeline of 2027.

The west-end project isn’t the only major recreation amenity moving forward with council also approving debt servicing of an additional $41.1 million to build the Coronation Park Recreation Centre to the planned program. This means the new facility next to the Peter Hemingway Leisure Centre will include an indoor velodrome as well as spectator seating, allowing it to host international cycling competitions.

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The facility is now pegged at a total cost of $153.4 million, with the cost hike mostly a result of inflation as the initial cost estimate was made years ago. Shovels will be in the ground next year with completion pegged for 2026.

Argyll Velodrome Association treasurer Dave Embury said he is thrilled council followed through on the plan to build to the design supported by the many sports groups and communities involved in the project since 2011. The association will be providing $4 million as well to support the new site.

“It takes courage to take on something like (council) is doing and move Lewis Farms and move Coronation forward in these troubled times, but it’s important,” he said, noting the importance of sport and recreation opportunities for Edmontonians.

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Ward Nakota Isga Coun. Andrew Knack, who has been working on the Lewis Farms project since elected to council in 2013, said it’s a big day for the city to ensure all residents have access to core services, noting that the new west-end library is also a necessity to serve new communities. Although the projects have large price tags, Knack said the community benefits will be worth it in the long run and the city is responsible for providing these services and amenities to Edmontonians.

“It’s going to make such a difference in the everyday lives of those people in the west end of our city,” he said. “I can’t wait to see the final result.”

More than 35 amendments were tabled by city council Tuesday to change the 2022 budgets. Operating budget adjustments, including the police budget and the proposed transit cash fare increase to $4 will be discussed Wednesday. The current proposed tax levy increase is 1.8 per cent.

duscook@postmedia.com

twitter.com/dustin_cook3 

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