The City of Abbotsford is taking another crack at trying to get federal and provincial financing for a $10 million expansion of the Matsqui Recreation Centre.
The city wants to add a full-size gymnasium with a convertible stage, new change rooms, and a “recreation culture and community program space” at the facility. The plan to expand the MRC dates back several years, with the city having made two unsuccessful grant applications in 2016.
Last week, council gave staff the go-ahead to apply for money from an infrastructure grant program for community, culture and recreation projects. The governments have set aside $134 million to dole out to communities around the province, and the money can finance up to 73 per cent of a project’s cost. The city says it is ready to contribute up to $4.85 million towards an MRC expansion.
If the grant application isn’t successful, Mayor Henry Braun said another report could eventually make its way to council. But he didn’t even want to dwell on that possibility.
“I don’t want there to be any ambiguity, so in case our federal counterparts are listening to this conversation, I don’t want to say much more of that,” he said last Monday, adding that local governments collect less than 10 per cent of all tax dollars in Canada.
The expansion was included in the city’s new parks masterplan, a staff report acknowledges, with construction planned to begin in 2023. Receiving the grant money would allow that timeline to be bumped up, the report says. Indeed, projects that receive financing must be completed by the spring of 2024.
The upgrade would mark the fourth major expansion in the centre’s history. The existing arena, which was built in the 1970s, was joined by an aquatic centre in 1991 and fitness centre in 2005. A new turf field complex was added in 2016.
The project, as outlined in last week’s staff report, appears scaled down from 2016 concept drawings, with a change room area smaller and a smaller overall footprint. The plans also don’t include a public amphitheatre that was pitched and was central to the city’s application then for a cultural spaces grant.