WBRA received a copy of the following letter from a taxpayer concerned about how fast Council was moving ahead on the $60,000,000 Twin-Pad Arena and Library project that replaced the Downtown Community Hub proposal from 2018. The letter was sent to Council with a request that it be read aloud so that members of the public might hear the concerns. Letters to Council are distributed to each council member but are not read out loud. Here is the letter from the self-confessed "rink rat" who is only concerned about the huge cost and lack of a proper “ice needs assessment”.
August 18, 2020
Mayor and Council,
Town of Wasaga Beach
30 Lewis Street
Wasaga Beach, ON
Re: Twin-Pad Arena/Library versus Downtown Hub
As a seasonal resident, like many who contribute greatly to the tax base in Wasaga Beach, this letter is to express strong objection to the rapidly forming plan of this new Council to discard the Downtown Community Hub and to proceed to develop a disconnected and unaffordable $60 million Twin-Pad Arena and Library.
I supported the 2017 Community Hub document, in principle, in its thoughtful design, which would create a central core to geographically connect fractured services in this town.
I did not necessarily support a twin arena without a proper “ice needs assessment” and I certainly do not agree with the direction this Council has taken to purchase an entirely separate new site for a twin pad arena and library complex, to be built at a cost of $60 million, in the midst of the worst economic crisis our country has experienced since the Great Depression.
I am unclear why the race is on, during this unsettled economic time, to undertake this expensive arena project, especially since you have been refused provincial funding for the initiative, as originally contemplated. A Google Internet search immediately provides link to Wasaga Beach’s YMCA RecPlex an excellent facility that already serves as a “community hub” complete with modern pool, gymnasium and meeting rooms. Furthermore, the Wasaga Stars arena is a solid single pad arena facility operating well with new dehumidification equipment and outfitted with useful site facilities for hockey camps.
My main concern however, is the questionable need for a double pad arena. The hastily completed $5 million land purchase for this seems to have been done without public consultation. The arena itself, far and away the largest budget component, was never objectively analyzed in a data-driven needs assessment and revenue model.
Assessment of need in the 2017 hub document was a subjective airing of the voices of citizen interest groups. While understanding community wishes is useful, this document in no way does proper diligence to determine ice need.
It seems that the new Council, wittingly or not, has moved forward with the assumption that sufficient research was done by preceding Councils to conclude that arena demand exists for twin pad arenas.
While I am unable to be at your meeting I respectfully request that this letter be read publicly and shared with all members of Council, so that they may see alternate examples expanded upon in e-mail attachments accompanying this letter.
One example to share is Mississauga’s “Streetsville Village”, a sub- community where a hub was created by retrofitting its aging Vic Johnson arena. This arena was the exact 47-year age then, as Wasaga Stars arena is today. The outcome of that arena retrofit, for $8.6 million, and now complete, was a delightfully bright modern space, with new dressing rooms and creation of two expansive profit- generating ballroom spaces.
The key example however I wish to share is the fact gathering done by same sized Wilmot Township to fully assess its ice needs, before taking action. (Wilmot 20,545 population versus Wasaga Beach 20,675: 2016 Census Data). Wilmot, with hard data in hand, did proceed to build its hub for only $22 million. It should also be noted, this township did not have the RecPlex hub that Wasaga now already enjoys. Wilmot is also a more wealthy community with 1/3 higher family after-tax income and is demographically younger with almost double the youth population of that of Wasaga Beach. Please note in the Wilmot report that, statistically, hockey is an elite pursuit very dependent on family income with declining registrations due to changing Canadian demographics.
A third and final example to share with Council is Norfolk County, which, on the same path as Wasaga, sought provincial hub funding. This jurisdiction’s Council approved a similar arena and hub, and was then refused provincial funding in May 2020 and has to-date stopped its arena building plans until funding is forthcoming.
This letter does not come to you without care for the well-being of the local community. I am a long time “rink rat” having coached my 3 kids through decades of rep level OMHA hockey. My hope is simply that you identify to me the burden this will have on my already sizable taxation and that the madness of a massive twin pad arena and library complex in this town at a cost of $60M is stopped, until further research is done and funding is brought forward.
C: Roger Klein/CTV News Newsroom/Simcoe.com