To build on or build new

At the end of this month Lacombe City council will debate and most likely decide whether to go ahead

At the end of this month Lacombe City council will debate and most likely decide whether to go ahead with the planned improvements, upgrades and expansion to the Lacombe Sports & Leisure Complex, which houses the Barnett Arenas, curling club and Kinsmen Aquatic Centre.

The topic has come up a number of times in the last few council meetings, and last week representatives for the City of Lacombe, Lacombe council and engineering consultant Stantec made a presentation to Lacombe County council, hoping to get the County on board as a funding partner should the project be approved.

Whenever the subject has come up, questions about whether or not the costs of the renovations are worth the result have surfaced. With those questions, consideration has also been given to whether Lacombe would be better off just to build a new arena or sports complex or, as was suggested at the most recent County meeting, demolish the existing sports complex and rebuild, perhaps salvaging materials from the demolished complex to do so.

Why so much debate? Well, the cost for the necessary upgrades is quite a large amount, estimated at over $15 million and would only upgrade existing facilities at the complex without really introducing any new features.

Some members of the community and of council therefore feel that building a new arena and giving Lacombe another much needed ice surface would better serve Lacombe. Others argue the existing facility is worth investing in so it can continue to be enjoyed by the community.

It is one of those situations where both parties are right. These proposed upgrades won’t address the community’s need for an additional ice surface. But, they will fix a number of issues like cramped dressing rooms, inadequate emergency exits and lack of sprinkler systems.

Either way, both issues need to be looked after in the near future. Anyone who sits inside the City Council Chambers during meetings gets the strong impression that anyone on either side of the argument sees the benefits of the other.

Were it possible, the City would most likely decide to do the upgrades as well as building a new arena. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like that will happen. In Lacombe’s recreational strategic plan, the need for a new arena was not identified as a top priority for whatever reason.

Luckily, whichever path council chooses, Lacombe wins. Sadly, whichever path council chooses, one need in the community will go unanswered as well.