City hoping to include lazy river, wave pool and water slides at new rec centre

Full wish list included with tender sent out Wednesday for design work on proposed project

The approximate proposed site of a new 80-acre development in the city’s southeast is overlayed on a Google Maps satellite image of the city. The proposed 18-acre parcel the city plans to buy is in the lower right quadrant, circled and marked with a dashed, red line. The Art Hauser Centre can be seen near the top of the image. Photo illustration by Peter Lozinski with files from Google Maps and City of Prince Albert

The city’s wish list for the first phase of its new recreation centre includes a wave pool, lazy river, waterslides, paddling pool, 25-metre swimming pool and diving boards.

The city issued a tender for the project Wednesday, calling on architectural firms to bid for the design  of what will be one of the largest infrastructure projects the city has ever seen.

To date, council has committed to spending $22 million on the project, including $6 million on a controversial 18-acre land acquisition and $16 million towards the first phase.

The city’s 18-acre parcel is part of a proposed 80-acre commercial development. The city has said it will pay for its share of the first phase through a development levy on the 80-acres of commercial land. That way, it said, taxes will not have to go up to fund the first phase. In the meantime, it would be financed through a loan.

The $6-million land purchase was funded through reserves.

The first phase’s remaining $44 million  is funded through a partnership with the federal and provincial governments. It’s set to include an aquatic centre and two arenas.

The funding the city received for the project is earmarked for the recreation centre and can’t be spent elsewhere, as it’s tied to conditions as part of a federal-provincial infrastructure agreement

City officials have said the proposed facility meets a few key needs.

In a community survey, the most pressing recreation need residents identified was a new aquatic centre. Officials have previously said existing rinks, such as the Dave Steuart Arena located at the Prince Albert Exhibition grounds, require expensive upgrades and repairs. The city would rather demolish it than pay for more work.

The Kinsmen Arena on 28th Street also requires upgrades and repairs, though no decision on the future of that facility has been made.

The tender document published Wednesday gives a sneak peek at what officials hope will be included with the new facility. The actual features will depend on design and cost.

“It’s a list of desired features, not necessarily the features that will be constructed,” explained Wes Hicks, the city’s director of public works.

“The list is all the items that have come forth from user groups, administration and council. Once we get a team together and start diving into this, we’re going to learn more about each of those desired features, the cost of construction and the cost to operate.”

The city’s wish list includes:

Lazy river

Hot tub/whirlpool

Splash pool with components

Zero depth entrance for leisure pool

Wave pool

“minimum of two” waterslides

1m and 3m diving boards

A regulation short course pool (25 by 21 metres)

Spectator seating capacity of 400

Speed swimming timing touchpads

Scoreboard/timing clock

Weight room for dryland training

Sauna/steam room

Four multi-purpose rooms


Wheelchair accessibility

They hope the pair of NHL regulation-size arenas include spectator seating capacity of 800 in each arena, 12 dressing rooms, a common concession/vending area with the pool, two large boardrooms and a fitness room.

Decisions will have to be made along the way, Hicks said, as to what amenities to include.

The hope is for the conceptual design of phase one to be done by the end of this year. The plan is for the final design to come before council by next August. The construction contract would be awarded by September.

“That’s the goal,” Hicks said.

“A timeline is always a fluid thing when you’re designing something of this magnitude. (Architectural firms)  might have some suggestions to that timeline that might be longer or shorter.

The city’s document said the aquatic centre is valuable as it provides fitness and recreation opportunities for all ages, and that an aging population, longer life expectancy and an increased interest in fitness will lead to a growth in people wanting to swim.

The arenas, the document said, will be a “welcome addition to the city known as ‘hockey town north.’”

The document also included details about the plans for phases two and three, which have yet to be funded but are planned as part of the final project.

Phase two is a planned 4,500-seat arena entertainment centre for an estimated $60 million.

That could serve as a potential future home for the Prince Albert Raiders. The team’s current home, the Art Hauser Centre, was originally opened as the Communiplex in 1971. It no longer meets the Western Hockey League’s minimum standards.

New guidelines call for arenas with at least 4,500 seats. The Art Hauser seats 2,580 plus 786 spots for standing-room only.

Other upgrades have been made to the Art Hauser to bring it up to modern standards, including new light, boards and a scoreboard.

In addition to the 4,500-seat arena and NHL regulation-size ice surface, phase two is also intended to include a banquet room with the capacity for 500 people and 20 executive box suites of various sizes.

That $60-million cost is a discount compared to the most recent new facility erected for a similar purpose in the province.

Phase three, which the city estimates will cost about $5 million, will provide space for a 5,000 square-foot branch library and a 2,500 square-foot daycare centre.

No decision has been made yet to move forward with phases two and three. The phase one design, though, will accommodate the potential for further expansion.

“We’ll take it as far as necessary … to make sure the other parts can be added later,” Hicks said, adding that whether those next phases move forward will “entirely depend on council.”

 “Once we get our proposals back and have a recommendation, we’ll bring it forth. They’ll be some dollar values attached to the other phases for design. It will be councils’ decision as to whether they want to include those at this time.”

Such a decision might hinge on who is elected this fall. Voters will choose a new city council in the November 9 municipal election.

Moose Jaw project with similar sized rink cost over $60 million

It’s unlikely the city would attempt to put up the remaining cost, estimated at $65 million, itself. More likely, corporate, government and private donors would be sought to help offset the cost of the new arena, library and daycare. That facility sits 4,500 and has executive boxes, but also includes a curling centre.

Moose Jaw constructed Mosaic Place in 2011 for a cost of $61.2 million, or over $68 million today.

For that project, the city paid $34.5 million, with governments contributing a portion and fundraising bringing in $10 million. Ten-year naming rights were sold to the Mosaic Company for $150,000 per year.

Medicine Hat’s Canalta Centre, opened in 2015, seats 7,100 but cost almost $75 million to build.

Prince Albert’s estimated cost should it move forward with all three phases is about $125 million. In a city press release announcing the land purchase proposal last month, the mayor said it would be the largest recreation project in city history.

Hicks said it would be the city’s biggest project to date, at least from a cost perspective.

The Alfred Jenkins Field House, completed in 2008, cost $15 million to build, while the E.A. Rawlinson Centre cost the city $12.8 million.

The Communiplex, as the Art Hauser Centre was originally known, cost $500,000 in 1971, or $3 million adjusted for inflation. An additional $3 million in upgrades were made in the early 2000s.

In fact, the total cost would make it one of the largest infrastructure projects in the city’s history.

The La Colle Falls hydroelectric dam project, which began work in 1909 before being abandoned due to cost, almost bankrupted the city. It went for $3 million, or the equivalent of about $84 million in today’s dollars.

The Diefenbaker Bridge was first constructed in 1960. It cost $2.5 million, or $21.9 million in today’s dollars, and involved contributions from other levels of government.

A 2013 study into the cost of a second bridge said that such a span constructed today could cost anywhere from $120-million to $153 million. Such a project would require provincial participation. So far, though, the provincial government has not committed to building a second span.

What the province has committed to, though, is a $300-million project to cover 100 per cent of the design and building costs of an expanded Victoria Hospital.

That price tag could well be the biggest single-project cost in Prince Albert’s history, however, it will be funded out of the province’s treasury, not the local one. The city, will, however, be responsible for furnishing the new hospital.

The Herald was unable to find reliable information about the costs and city’s contributions towards the construction of the Victoria Hospital, correctional centres or Saskatchewan Penitentiary for comparison as of press time.