I use City of Edmonton Community Recreation Centres. They are very nice and affordable. Typically, you will likely find me at either the Commonwealth, Londonderry, or Clareview rec centres. I used to have a private membership with the YMCA, but the City of Edmonton undercut them in their offering of similar services. As a user of City of Edmonton facilities, I love them. As a general taxpayer, I raise my eyebrow at the business model of the mega rec centre dumbbell palaces which have swallowed up the small community gyms which are important components of our communities.

It wasn’t too long ago when the City only offered small rec centres, with weight rooms that appeared as though they belonged in a jailhouse. I am glad that most of these have been revamped with fresh paint, but they do serve as local community staples. What slightly concerns me is the prevalence of the mega rec centres. These things are humungous, impersonal, and marvellous, and they cost over a hundred million dollars each and are not very convenient to get to.

As soon as one pops up, there is a demand for more in other areas of the City. It is mission creep. That is the reason that you find them in the Meadows and why one is currently under construction in Lewis Farms. As a matter of fact, these mega rec centres are the City’s new policy direction for providing recreational services to the populations resulting from suburban growth. And yet none exist in Ward 3.

Develop a few sections of land and wait for the City to plop one of these amenities down. The developers must love the boon to their land values. Not in Ward 3.

These mega rec centres provide space for multiple community partners to exist under the same roof, and that is a good thing. It is convenient to have a public library branch, child care, and high-school completion centres together. Surely, there are also some cost savings from the efficiency that this model provides. On the other hand, they sure are extravagant buildings for their primary uses: pools and gymnasiums. Roman gods would be in awe at the aquatic centres.

The City attempts to recoup operating costs for the gym portions through modest membership fees, but there is no chance in ever recapturing the capital costs. Each $100 million project is spent, invested, gone. On a side note, the City provided the Katz Group with over $300 million for Rogers Place, and is now looking at turning the old Coliseum into another Community Recreation Centre, for $100 million more. It is fair to conclude that the City’s decision on the downtown arena has cost us somewhere just shy of a half a billion dollars.

The user fees for these rec centres are cheap. This is good because we all have to stretch our money in these hard economic times. I don’t have the data, but it might be the case that all property-taxpayers are paying about $100 a year for these facilities, regardless of use, every year. And so it is in your interest to use them. Pay the nominal user fee. You have already paid for the bulk of the capital costs, so too bad there isn’t one in Ward 3.

I don’t know, but for now, I’ll be in the Clareview sauna pretending to be hand-fed grapes dreaming of a time that I could do so in Ward 3.

That’s why I keep saying: if I get elected to Council my priorities will be “Ward 3 First, North Side Second, the Rest of Edmonton Third.”

J.D.

 

Further, what about the small gyms? In an effort to achieve “complete communities” perhaps we would be better served with multiple small gyms at a fraction of the cost of the dumbbell palaces.

 

Jon Dziadyk, “Jon D for Ward 3”

North Side Journal

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