Edmonton City Council puts Lewis Farms rec centre in funding queue but won’t confirm until next fall

Designs for the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre. Supplied by the City of Edmonton

Edmonton City Council has given tentative approval to the $292-million Lewis Farms rec centre, however, they want to wait a whole year to nail down specific costs through a value-engineering exercise that could reduce the price.

“The way I look at it is, I think this does show that the residents in the west end that we will be building a rec centre for those residents,” Councillor Andrew Knack said after Thursday’s vote.

There is nervousness because the project is so much more expensive than other recent projects on a smaller scale, even though the cost per square foot is roughly the same. What makes this west-end project more costly is added amenities like a library and district park, as well as specialized aquatic features like a ten-metre high diving tower and tank.

The upcoming year will see the city work with developers and other regional partners to help cover some of the costs.

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Mayor Don Iveson said he heard from neighbouring mayors at a recent Edmonton Metro meeting that they were open to one-on-one discussions.

“I look forward to following up with our neighbours to see what kind of opportunities there are.”

READ MORE: Designs for West Edmonton Lewis Farms Community Recreation Centre unveiled

Watch below: (From November 2018) Final designs for a proposed Lewis Farms rec centre in deep west Edmonton will be unveiled Tuesday. But the reveal comes during the final stages of city budget deliberations. Vinesh Pratap reports.

Click to play video: 'Final design for Lewis Farms rec centre revealed Tuesday'
Final design for Lewis Farms rec centre revealed Tuesday

Councillor Sarah Hamilton, who’s in Ward 5, will be served directly by the rec centre. She said her hope is several small contributions will begin to add up.

“Having a comprehensive partnership program… they might not add up to much, but together, they might actually make a significant dent.”

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There were plenty of concerns expressed during Thursday afternoon’s budget discussion. Hamilton said part of the project budget is a $55-million contingency.

“It’s incumbent on Councillor Knack and I to work with the administration to make sure that the case that’s brought forward for Lewis Farms next November is the best possible case, and we can show some of those efficiencies that the councillors were asking about.”

“I don’t think we’re going to need to tap into all of it,” Knack added. “Part of this new project development model is meant to try to reduce overall risk,” he said of the new way the city’s infrastructure branch nails down design work before a final say on going ahead with any construction project.

Hamilton also said there is pent-up demand for community league halls and other meeting spaces — that normally would be other budget requests — that this rec facility will cover off.

Deputy city manager Adam Laughlin told council they’re in a plus or minus 25-per-cent-range at this point with more work to go.

The mayor offered one more cautionary note, even though this vote was to assure west-end residents that city council is serious about fulfilling the promise.

“Any further tax increase to build it, that decision will be taken next fall and quite frankly, if the economy contracts significantly or if construction costs get away from us, council will have the option to put it on hold, and so this is not a green light yet — at all — and should not be construed as such,” Iveson said. “There’s one more year of work to do.”

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Knack said there will be no budget impact in the first two years of this budget, but then 0.25 per cent in years three and four of this cycle, and in the first two years of the next cycle between 2022-2025.

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