Lucan Biddulph discusses $13 million arena upgrade

LUCAN — A public meeting was held Nov. 15 to give the residents of Lucan Biddulph a chance to see the planned upgrade of the Lucan Community Memorial Centre. Nearly 100 people were on hand to see what the community centre might look like after a major renovation is complete in 2019.

Kevin McIlmurray of Spriet Associates presented a look at the $13 million renovation that  will see a new pool, one additional hall, giving the centre three, a restructuring of the arena with eight dressing rooms, a general rebuild of the centre with an entrance facing south and a licensed day care centre along the front of the existing centre.

Some of the major costs will be $2,055,000 for the day care, $5,105,200 to rebuild, put a walking track around the arena and add a hall to the centre and $750,000 for arena work.

The plans call for a senior centre where the old library is now but the $2.2 million for a new relocated pool has a codicil to it. If funding is not found for a new pool, it may be put off for good or at least put off for up to 10 years.

When asked if the pool is scheduled to be open in 2018, parks and recreation manager Jason Boyer said it would be open for the season but demolished in 2019, along with the playground, skate park and tennis courts to make way for the renovations.

There will be two phases, with the day care centre being the first phase that will see the canteen removed, the offices gone, the lobby and Leprechaun Hall removed to make room for the day care. Phase 1 is scheduled to be completed in 2018.  With phase 2, which will be the major restructuring of the community centre being scheduled for completion in 2019, it will mean that the amenities that are removed to make way for the day care will not be added until 2019.

Mayor Cathy Burghardt-Jesson said, “It’s an exciting project,” but she added “We must keep our books in mind and exercise financial responsibility.”

That means the difficult task to find funding for what she considers a necessary project in the community.

Regarding the licensed day care facility, the mayor said it was not in the works until Middlesex County and the City of London brought the concept to council.

“When funding is offered, it’s difficult to say no.”

Day care has been identified as lacking in the Lucan Biddulph area and it is a chance to develop a revenue stream leasing the centre to an outside operator. It is thought the revenue could come to $80,000 every year and with a possibility of 75 per cent funding, the municipality could pay off the loan for their portion of the cost in about two years and have revenue in the future.

As far as funding goes, the day care is expected to receive 75 per cent funding. The rest of the project is hoped to receive 50 per cent funding and the municipality is looking for community fundraising to generate $500,000 to $700,000.  The rest will be low interest loans that will take at least 10 years to pay. There will also be reserves committed to the cost. No information was provided if any tax hikes would be incurred.

Residents for the most part would like to see the community centre upgraded but many expressed concern about the cost. They fear their taxes will be raised to help pay for the project.  There was concern about the parks and recreation department operating at a $300,000 deficit and residents wondered if that would go up. A few want to see a new pool regardless of the cost. Residents pointed out if the municipality goes ahead with Phase 1, the day care, this would be taking a risk of funding for Phase 2. If there is no money in place for the major renovation in Phase 2 and the day care goes forward and no funding comes from the government, it would make it financially difficult for the rest of the project. A partially completed building may require completion regardless of cost.

Boyer said he doubted the deficit would increase and instead said the revenues should be increased after the renovation. The mayor agreed there was a risk to the funding structure but added the renovation of the centre is something that is needed, as  the centre is old and in need of renovation.

The mayor said, “The building was built well but they are not built to last forever.”

Parks and recreation committee member Colin Haskett told the residents when he played hockey as a kid everyone was proud to go out to other arenas because the community was proud of the centre. He said that is not the case nowadays and he said the need for an upgrade is there. He urged the residents to get behind the project and support it.

The mayor finished by pointing out that this project would create a community hub that should help with federal and provincial funding.  It is a project that council and staff support and she hopes the community will also agree with and support the project.