Budget crunch: how much is too much when it comes to Edmonton rec centres?

Click to play video 'Lewis Farms rec centre questioned ahead of Edmonton budget' Lewis Farms rec centre questioned ahead of Edmonton budget
WATCH: Ahead of Thursday's budget deliberations at Edmonton city hall, Vinesh Pratap digs into the numbers for one big project: the Lewis Farms rec centre. Some are asking if it's too much to spend during these times of restraint – Dec 4, 2019

Deep in the city’s west end, with suburbia on one side and fields on the other, a piece of land waits to be transformed.

“Lewis Estates has just kind of sucked it up for the last, you know, 20 plus years,” says Rebecca Goldsack, the president of the Lewis Estates Community League, explaining how people in the area have watched other centres go up with less challenges.

The facility, which includes a library and a large aquatics component, has a price tag of $321.3 million, approved earlier this year after a cost-cutting exercise. The facility includes an approximately $50-million contingency because of potential issues with soil conditions on the site.

“When it comes to rec centres, what is our goal?” Ward 9 Councillor Tim Cartmell questions.

READ MORE: Edmonton City Council approves $321M budget for Lewis Estates rec centre

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But with provincial cuts now putting pressure on the city budget, there’s a call to look at the plans again.

“I’m not saying it necessarily needs to look bad,” Cartmell says. “But if the cost is in making it look as pretty as it can, where it’s become form over function as opposed to function over form, then maybe we need to look at that standard.”

Here’s how the Lewis Farms cost compares to other area rec centres. Note, it’s not a direct comparison due to issues like inflation, land prices and facility amenities.

“If there’s a way we can learn from some of those other centres, if they’ve been able to design the exterior in a way that’s substantially less than what we’re doing, and they’ve been able to deliver the same type of programming — let’s go for it,” says Councillor Andrew Knack, the representative for the area.

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“We still have a huge need in the west for it.”

Rebecca Goldsack doesn’t want to see the centre fall off the radar this far in to the process, noting that “costs are only going up.”

Following the budget public hearing Thursday, councillors and the mayor will debate and vote on the 2020 budget next week.