Two Peterborough city staff reports are recommending review of Morrow Park and the city’s downtown as future sites for arenas.
In one report to be presented Monday, staff is asking city council to review Morrow Park on Lansdowne Street as an alternate site for the twin-pad arena and aquatic complex that was planned to be built on 13 acres of land on Fleming College in the city’s west end.
However, in August, the city announced it failed to secure provincial and federal government funding for the estimated $50-million project.
The staff report recommends hiring a consultant (not exceeding $300,000) to review Morrow Park as a location. It also notes city staff recently met with Fleming College staff and First Nations representatives about the outcome of the project and the next steps.
In his report, Sheldon Laidman, Commissioner of Community Services, says Fleming has requested that the project on their site be “paused.”
“Fleming College expressed how much they value the partnership with the City and have requested at this time that the development of the project at the Fleming site be paused,” the report reads. “Fleming College is currently fully focused on responding to the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed on their operations and staff attention is fully committed to their ongoing recovery plan.
“Staff anticipate it could be several years before Fleming College is in a position to consider future development on this site.”
The search for arena sites has been heightened following the closure of Northcrest Arena this spring which has impacted 24 of the 49 user groups and organizations that utilize city ice pads, the report states. Trent University in the city’s north end was initially targeted for the twin-pad arena and pool but was moved to Fleming due to environmental concerns related to a wetland.
“The elimination of the single pad Northcrest Arena has impacted the majority of user groups and city ice recreational programs,” the report states. “All ice and floor user groups and city ice recreational programs have been limited in the number of members and teams their organizations can accommodate and the number of tournaments and events they can host for over 24 years since the opening of the twin pad Evinrude Centre in 1996.”
A new facility at Morrow Park would initially aim to include a twin-pad arena with 500 seats on each pad; walking/running track; 12 team change rooms and two officials’ rooms; administrative and rental office spaces; a concession stand, two multipurpose rooms and parking.
Plans for a competitive eight-lane pool with change rooms and a potential third ice pad would be part of future phases, the report notes.
“As part of the review of the Morrow Park site, staff believe that there may be opportunity to reduce the costs associated with the site work due to adjacency of services,” the report states. “Furthermore, a value engineering redesign exercise for a pre-engineered building with some of the program elements removed could also be considered as a way to reduce the overall project cost.”
If a review is approved, city council will receive a report on Morrow Park by the summer 2021.
A second staff report, recommends a continued review in the downtown area for a location for a multi-sport and event centre (MUSEC) which would replace the aging Peterborough Memorial Centre which hosts the OHL’s Peterborough Petes and the Major Series Lacrosse’ Peterborough Lakers. The Lansdowne Street arena was built in 1956 at a cost of $875,000.
The city hired a consultant Sierra Planning and Management two years ago. The next phase of its extensive site analysis study will also be presented to council on Monday, highlighting the Market Plaza Impact Zone — Market Plaza, City garage — on George and Townsend streets as a key location for the MUSEC.
The consultants note that redevelopment and enhanced assessment potential of the area is $193 million. The estimated potential increase in annual tax revenue from redevelopment based on 2019 rates is $3,154,050.
Sierra Planning did highlight Morrow Park (adjacent to the Memorial Centre) as a potential location for a MUSEC but said a downtown location has the potential to spur more economic development and urban regeneration. The estimated potential increase in annual tax revenue from redevelopment at Morrow Park based on 2019 rates is $856,337 — three times less than the Market Plaza Impact Zone.
“The Morrow Park site does not, by comparison to a downtown site, have anything like the same opportunity to spur surrounding development outside of the public park,” the report reads.
Morrow Park is also limited in its redevelopment potential by the large amount of residential property nearby, as well as the distance from central downtown, the consultants’ report concludes.
Peterborough Petes’ president Dave Pogue says the organization is “very supportive” of the suggestions in the reports.
“It does two things. One, and it says in the report ‘continuing to plan ahead for the eventual replacement of the PMC demonstrates the city’s commitment to this planning process,’ and I think that’s what we’ve been waiting for, to see that next step. That’s first and foremost,” he said. “But we’ve always believed a downtown site is best for the City of Peterborough. That’s not just for the Petes. That’s for all. This is a major sports and entertainment facility. Not just an OHL facility. We believe a downtown site will help in the long run build and pay for this through development fees and taxes and so on around the site.”
He noted the Petes couldn’t exist without local sponsors — many in the downtown. A new arena there would bring additional patrons to business on game days.
“The PMC has been a great home for the Peterborough Petes for our entire existence,” said Pogue. “But we all know even with repairs that would be continually needed every year, this facility is no longer adequate for OHL hockey and we need to keep planning.”
Other potential sites include the former Baskin Robbins ice cream plant along Aylmer and Simcoe streets and a parcel of land on Wolfe St.
The consultants also recommend reducing the scale of the proposed new MUSEC in terms of its range of spaces while maintaining the intended seat count of 5,500 to 5,800 fixed seats.
City staff are recommending that council place Morrow Park “on hold’ as a location for the major sport and event centre pending the outcome of the continued assessment of a downtown location.
“The work completed on the project indicates a major sport and event centre is best situated in the central area,” the city staff report concludes.
Staff will return to council in 2021 to request approval to commence Phase 3B — which includes undertaking necessary discussions with relevant landowners and potential development interests for land on or surrounding the selected site downtown.
— with files from Katrina Squazzin