Brussels arena renovation and expansion expected to cost $4.5 million - Dec. 6, 2018
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
As the plans currently stand, it will cost approximately $4.5 million for the renovation and expansion of the Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre.
Both the plans for the centre and their associated cost were discussed at a special public meeting, held at the centre and hosted by members of the renovation committee.
Co-Chairs Doug McArter and John Van Vliet addressed the dozens in attendance, updating them as to where the plans currently sit and the updated cost estimates the committee has received. In addition, there was some preliminary discussion regarding how the community could pay for such an expensive upgrade to the building.
McArter began his presentation by discussing the history of the project, saying that the first meeting of the committee was held in late June. The committee members have been at work on the project ever since, touring other local community centres and meeting with service groups, centre user groups and fundraising experts ahead of the public meeting on Nov. 27.
He said that the three major requirements for the centre going forward were an expanded lobby, bigger dressing rooms and a renovation to the kitchen.
From the very first meeting, committee members felt it made sense to expand the centre to the east and the south. If more space is what was needed, those two sides made the most sense, he said.
With the Brussels Leo Club’s pickleball and tennis courts on the west side of the building and the centre’s façade on the north end, it was the other two sides of the building that lent themselves to expansion. McArter also said that it made sense to expand in that direction to be closer to municipal water and sewer services.
Features of the expansion will include a new entrance to the arena on the east side of the building. It will lead into a new, expanded lobby with a natural fork that will allow players to turn left towards the new dressing rooms and parents to go right towards the viewing area.
Along the south end of the building there will be six dressing rooms after the expansion, compared to the four the centre currently has. The six rooms, however, will be expanded and improved, compared to the four existing rooms, which have been deemed too small for many older hockey players.
The expansion would also result in increased storage space for the centre, which was another need identified in the early stages of the project.
He also said that the committee hopes to improve and modernize several other aspects of the centre through the project, including improved ventilation on the ice surface for warm-weather events and promoting air flow during the Lions’ elimination draw or ball hockey tournaments.
McArter said there had also been suggestions from many of the user groups. The Brussels Curling Club, for example, suggested a cold storage room for the club’s curling rocks in the summer months. He also said that several service stations could be added to the south side of the building for recreational vehicles to use camping in the event of a baseball or soccer tournament. That also led to discussion regarding a dumping station on the site as well.
There are also plans for an improved media room for important hockey games or for use by the Brussels Figure Skating Club for events. The room, McArter said, would include bluetooth connectivity so music could be played through the system through a smartphone or tablet.
For hockey purposes, in addition to the expanded roster of dressing rooms, McArter said that the committee is also hoping to increase the length of team benches and include a higher raised platform behind the benches for team’s coaches.
He also said there are hopes for a fitness room or gym in the centre and potentially even a children’s play area with a mini-stick lay-out on the floor.
The work on the building, McArter said, would happen in two phases, with the centre continuing to operate during work on the first phase, which would be the expansion of the east and south sides of the building. The second phase of the project would be the renovation and expansion of the kitchen and auditorium area.
Van Vliet then laid out the costs for the centre. He said the expansion and improvements proposed by the committee would cost $3.78 million. There would also be architectural work and engineering that is estimated to cost $260,000. With the cost of a new roof, which the centre needs whether the expansion and renovation is approved, estimated at $400,000, the total cost for the project would be just under $4.5 million, Van Vliet said.
He said that there would be another $25,000 in order to employ the services of Campaign Coaches for a feasibility study, a recommendation from the Brussels, Morris and Grey Recreation Committee. Not only would that group determine whether the community could afford such an expensive facility, but it would begin to determine how that money could then be raised.
Van Vliet said the $25,000 feasibility study would be the first step in the process and that members of the committee were planning on approaching both Huron East and Morris-Turnberry Councils very soon in the hopes that they would both be on board with the direction of the committee.
The expansion, Van Vliet said, would add approximately 15,000 square feet to the building and, at a price of approximately $250 per square foot, the cost estimates didn’t surprise members of the committee.
The proposal was compiled by construction management firm Ball Construction for free, Van Vliet said, and the committee isn’t committed to anyone as of yet.
With a building that was constructed in 1977 and hasn’t seen any substantial upgrades or renovations since then, McArter said that the building “has been neglected for too long and I think it’s time for a change.”
During the question-and-answer period, Brian Schlosser, the long-time secretary of the Brussels Agricultural Society, suggested an upgraded security system for the community centre. He also wondered about the condition of both the ice surface floor and of the ice compressor.
McArter said that to the committee’s knowledge, the floor was in good condition and the compressor had been replaced by Huron East earlier this year. As for a security system, he said it was a good suggestion and worth looking into further.
Former Huron East Mayor Joe Seili, also a member of the committee, said that to his knowledge there aren’t any federal or provincial grants available at the moment. However, he said that upper-tier levels would look more favourably on a project with its ducks in a row, so the potential for grants could be there in the future, but as of right now, Seili said it wasn’t a question he could answer.
Brussels Lions Club member Paul Mutter then asked about a plan for programming at the centre once it’s renovated.
He said that putting millions of dollars into the centre is an excellent step, but there would then need to be a plan to ensure that it’s used for decades to come.
At a meeting between the committee and the local service clubs, Mutter said the answer provided to him was akin to “if you build it, they will come” and he didn’t feel that strategy (or lack thereof) was good enough for an investment of $4.5 million.
McArter agreed, saying that if local businesses, shareholders and residents were going to invest millions of dollars in the centre, there should be an assurance that everything possible will be done to ensure it’s successful for years to come.
With hockey enrolment on the decline, he felt there needed to be a concrete business plan for the centre in place and that Huron East should invest in the hiring of a recreation director.
However, the decision to hire a recreation director would be made by Huron East Council; it had proven to be a hot topic at several all-candidates meetings ahead of the Oct. 22 municipal election, but nothing has officially been discussed at the council level.
Mutter said that amalgamating the promotion of Huron East’s three recreation centres into one job description would increase usage at the centres and diversify programming to ensure a bright future for the Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre and recreation in Huron East as a whole.
McArter agreed that usage and the viability of the centre for decades to come would be crucial to its success. If it weren’t going to be used, there would be no point in spending millions of dollars to renovate the building.
Van Vliet said that the committee would be speaking to both Huron East and Morris-Turnberry Councils, as well as the Brussels, Morris and Grey Recreation Board, in the coming months in the hopes of authorizing and funding the feasibility study for a cost of $25,000.