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Feds give City of Ottawa $1M for Blackburn Arena upgrade

An image of the Blackburn Arena in Ottawa's east end, taken on July 23, 2019. The federal government announced Tuesday it's contributing $1 million to the arena's planned expansion and upgrade, which will include new accessible change rooms and bleachers. Beatrice Britneff / Global News

The City of Ottawa is getting a $1-million boost from the federal government as it moves to upgrade the Blackburn Arena in the city’s east end, making the facility bigger and more accessible.

Andrew Leslie, Liberal MP for Orléans, made the funding announcement at the arena on Glen Park Drive on Tuesday morning, flanked by Mayor Jim Watson, Innes Ward Coun. Laura Dudas and Marie-France Lalonde, Liberal MPP for Orléans.

READ MORE: Ottawa Liberal MPP Marie-France Lalonde to seek federal seat in Orléans after Leslie retires

Built in 1973, the building is due for a facelift, according to Dan Chenier, the city’s general manager of recreation, cultural and facility services.

Many of the facility’s amenities are outdated, which has become increasingly problematic as the building has grown into “a recreational [and] social hub of the community,” he said on Tuesday. The change rooms, for example, are “undersized” and inaccessible, he explained.
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As part of the $4.3-million upgrades, the city plans to build main and universal dressing rooms, new stands, a media multi-purpose room, a refreshed lobby and waiting area and parking spaces — all of which will be accessible.

“Blackburn Hamlet is a bit set off from the rest of the city, and so having some local indoor space for people to meet and have activities is important,” Chenier said.

Proposed design options for the expansion and upgrade of the Blackburn Arena at 200 Glen Park Dr. in Ottawa’s east end. Beatrice Britneff / Global News

Within the last three years, the city retrofitted everything mechanical- and ice-related at the facility and replaced the roof, according to Chenier. The scheduled 6,700-square-foot expansion represents the next big step to make the facility “modern and accessible,” he said.

As of right now, the city hopes that tenders will be out and construction will kick off in spring 2020, although the design and budget aren’t yet set in stone, Chenier said. The arena would remain open for the September 2019 to March 2020 cycle and then close down for about a year, he said.

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The municipality has been planning and budgeting for the arena’s upgrade for several years and applied to both the provincial and federal governments for financial assistance, according to the recreation manager.

City awaits word on provincial funding

Last year, the former provincial government announced a $1-million contribution to the arena project through its 2018 budget, but Chenier said the city isn’t sure that funding will come through.

After the provincial election last June, the Progressive Conservative government told the city it was reviewing its funding priorities and put the $1 million for Blackburn Arena on hold, according to Chenier.

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Chenier said city council has approved $2 million in municipal dollars for the project and will likely dip into some “life-cycle money” as well.

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He said the municipality would “cobble things together” to make up the difference if the provincial funding doesn’t materialize, but he remains “hopeful” that it will.

Dan Chenier is the City of Ottawa’s general manager of recreation, cultural and facility services. Beatrice Britneff / Global News

Asked about the $1-million contribution to the arena, a spokesperson for the provincial infrastructure minister said the province plans to launch the green and community, culture and recreation streams for the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program later this year.

“Ontario is working with the federal government to implement the [program] as quickly as possible and has been working collaboratively since the election in June of last year to do so in a way that also ensures provincial priorities are being met and burdens are reduced for municipalities wherever possible,” senior communications advisor Christine Bujold wrote.
“If eligible the municipality may have an opportunity to apply for funding for the [Blackburn Arena] once the intake is launched.”
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Blackburn Arena second recipient of federal accessibility fund in Orléans area

The $1-million federal grant announced Tuesday was awarded through the Enabling Accessibility Fund, which supports capital projects “that increase accessibility for people with disabilities in Canadian communities and workplaces.”

A total of 14 projects across the country will receive funding of up to $1 million each from the program’s 2018 “mid-sized component” call for proposals, according to Leslie, the Orléans MP.

The local MP said Blackburn Arena is one of two funding recipients in the Orléans area.

READ MORE: Liberal<br />MP Andrew Leslie not running in fall election, says it’s time for ‘new path’

This spring, the federal government also presented a $1-million grant to Sonshine Families, a provincially licensed residential care provider for children and adults.

The organization is building a new community inclusion centre for an accessibility hub in Orléans, a spokesperson for Leslie’s office said.

Work on the hub has already begun, according to the organization.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that a total of 14 projects across Canada, not 10, will receive funding through the federal government’s “mid-sized component” for the 2018 Enabling Accessibility Fund.

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