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EDITORIAL: Twin rink project worth a serious look

'It seems like a slam dunk for support from council, set to debate a motion Monday made by Coun. Mike Killick to explore a pair of conditions before talks move into the financial arena.'
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Active Communities Alberta is hoping it will receive financial support from the city for its twin outdoor rinks near Paul Kane High School. It will be the local non-profit organization’s first recreation facility of several it is looking to build across the province.

The group was shot down by council for its proposal in 2020 that would have seen the city kick in $20 million of the $42-million bill for a multi-use recreation facility project in the city's northwest.

Its current scaled-down project, which has since received support in the form of a 35-year land lease with St. Albert Public Schools, inked at the end of October, would be a year-round facility to feature two refrigerated outdoor rinks on two to three acres behind Paul Kane High School.

The school board jumped on board in exchange for exclusive access to the facility during the school day. The rinks can be used for various sports and dryland activities year-round, and the complex is set to feature a heated space and dressing rooms, along with a Zamboni.

The group has so far raised $500,000 toward the recreation hub's $6-million price tag, and is actively pursuing funding from various levels of government for the rest, including from the City of St. Albert.

It seems like a slam dunk for support from council, set to debate a motion Monday made by Coun. Mike Killick to explore a pair of conditions before talks move into the financial arena.

Killick's motion makes perfect sense: the requirement of a third-party financial review of Active Communities' (ACA's) proposal, paid for by ACA, and that the group raise at least $3 million from other sources before the city will look at kicking in some cash.

The project, in principle, has huge community potential as a gathering space for residents, and to alleviate ice-time shortages teams have faced in recent years. It also opens the door for ancillary economic potential in the form of food-truck type concessions run by local small business owners during events.

On paper, it's a fraction of the cost of the original $42-million facility pitched by the group.

No, it doesn't solve the challenge of providing the community with another indoor pool, one of the reasons why the city backed out of the proposal in 2020 (COVID concerns was the other). But it does get the city a step closer to providing innovative, lower-cost recreational solutions on existing land.

The group's timeline — to be up and running by the fall — may be a tad ambitious. And getting cash from council now may also present a challenge.

City council voted in March of 2021 to write a letter of support for the twin rinks hub, which ACA had hoped at the time would lead to success in its pursuit of sponsorships, grants, and donations, not taxpayer dollars, as reported by The Gazette at the time. 

This may make any taxpayer-funded support a tough sell this time around.

But council would do well to give it a serious look, as the benefits and cost, coupled with a ready-made land deal, paint a pretty compelling picture.

Editorials are the consensus view of the St. Albert Gazette’s editorial board.