City proposing $6.25-million purchase of 18 acres for future rec centre

Land would be home to $60-million project announced last year

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

Prince Albert City Council will consider a proposal Monday that would see the city buy an 18- acre parcel of land for $6.25 million

The $60-million facility was approved through a joint funding agreement with the provincial and federal governments last year.

Of that $60 million, $24 million will come from the federal government and about $20 million from the provincial government.

The remaining $16 million of the project’s estimated construction cost will come from the city.

In a press release, the city said taxes will not be raised to pay for the new facility.

The project is proposed to be just the first of three phases the city hopes to build on that site.

The proposed second phase would include an entertainment centre housing a large arena and the proposed third phase would see a proposed convention centre, branch library and other development opportunities.

In a statement, Mayor Greg Dionne said the city is exploring funding models to include that second phase, measuring at 125,000 square feet, as part of a proposal for the design of the new facilities.

The land purchase, he said, is the first step and will set the city up for further expansion as needed.

The city’s original pitch to the federal and provincial governments included the large arena and entertainment centre, which was intended to serve as an upgrade for the Prince Albert Raiders.

That proposal was rejected by the federal government, which cited the inclusion of the rink for the Raiders as the reason. The government said the Raiders qualified as a semi-pro sports team, disqualifying them from inclusion in the bid.

The city re-submitted the application without the large, 4,500 seat arena, and it was approved for funding. The new application includes a 47,000 square foot aquatic centre and two 68,000 square foot hockey rinks.

The land city officials recommend the city purchase is located on the southeast side of Marquis Road and Highway 3. It’s on the border of the city’s boundaries and is zoned for future urban expansion.

A location plan provided with the Monday city council agenda seems to indicate that the city would extend Bartlett Street, which sits between Evergreen Nissan and Anderson Pumphouse, to the other side of Highway 3. That extension would also mark the northern border of the proposed land.

The land is currently owned by Signature Development Corporation. The 18 acres is part of an 80-acre parcel. The entire parcel will be developed and serviced for future commercial development.

This vacant land in the southeast part of the city is the proposed future home of a $60-million recreation centre. Photo by Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Daily Herald

The $6.25 million price tag includes the development of the land and installation of services by Signature Development Corporation.

The land purchase would be funded from the Civic Facilities Reserve. That reserve is funded through the capital projects levy. It is expected to receive $1.51 million in 2020 to bring it to a total of just over $6.699 million.

The reserve had about $5.189 million as of 2019. It collected $1.5 million in 2019.

The land purchase would leave that reserve at about $175,000.

The rest of the city’s portion of the project, the $16 million for the design and construction of the centre’s first phase, would be funded through a loan, the city report indicated.

The city is proposing to pay off that loan through the creation of a tax pool that would see revenue collected from other developments at that location used to pay back the debt.

A report attached to the proposal, written by city staff, indicates they also examined land by the Alfred Jenkins Field House and by Saskatchewan Polytechnic for the project.

The fieldhouse site would require a land swap with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, and it does not provide the opportunity for additional commercial development, the report said.

The land by Sask. Poly, meanwhile, while big enough, fully serviced and owned by the city, is contaminated due to previous land issues, and would require a lengthy and costly process to remediate.

“This recreation centre is an important project for Prince Albert and will represent the single largest recreation-based development in the history of our City,” said Mayor Greg Dionne. “I am very supportive of the proposed location given its potential for future development and taxation revenues which can be used to offset any borrowing required for the facility. With this project and the Victoria hospital addition and renovation on the horizon, we have a lot to look forward to in the coming years including getting our people back to work to complete these major infrastructure builds.”

The next step would be to hire an architectural firm to begin to design the new facility.

“The vision for the area is for it to be developed as an Entertainment and Commercial District with complimentary service-based businesses locating in the area,” said Gord Broda, President of Signature Development Corporation. “Our research shows that there is a need for this type of commercial space in Prince Albert and the Recreation Centre fits well with the vision we have for the area.”

New WHL guidelines call for arenas with at least 4,500 seats. The Art Hauser Centre, the team’s current home, has 2,580 seats plus 786 spots for standing-room-only.

The city has made other investments to bring that facility, opened as the Communiplex in 1971, up to modern standards, including the installation of new lights and scoreboard. The glass and boards will also need an update in the future.

The city says the new aquatic facility will provide opportunities for swimming lessons, fitness activities, competitive swimming, aqua therapy and wellness, lifeguard training, public swimming, special event rentals and event hosting.

Constructing a new aquatic centre was a priority identified by residents during community planning sessions, the city said.

The arenas, they said, will house groups such as minor hockey, the skating club, speed skating club, recreation hockey leagues and ringette association. It is also planned for public skating sessions, the opportunity to host tournaments and shows, summer ice rentals and power skating camps and for use by the public and Catholic school divisions.

The entertainment centre proposed as part of phase two would see events such as powwows and cultural events, tradeshows, concerts, major sporting events, graduations, conventions, conferences and weddings.

Council will vote on the proposal Monday.

In a press release, the city said it won’t consider requests for media interviews until Tuesday morning.