A ‘stand-alone’ centre would cost even more

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by admin on June 10, 2009

The Editor,

As a volunteer in Chelsea for 25 years I would like to clarify some points.
There are really two options:  1 the Meredith Centre proposal; or, 2 a standalone community centre.   It is already clear that the majority doesn’t want the status quo.   
 Can we turn down the Meredith Centre proposal and amend it, e.g. add an indoor soccer building?  This is a delusion.  We have an agreement with the other two levels of government for $6.1 million for a community centre, arena and double gym.  Withdraw a part and its portion of funding is gone.  The MRIF fund closed its funding window permanently Dec. 31st, 2008.  The funding program’s deadline for construction is March, 2010. There is no time to renegotiate.
To change the proposal you have to start over. The Chelsea Foundation, many dozens of volunteers, and user groups have been working on the Meredith Centre for over 10 years.  This third bid for funding was successful.   A “no” vote would deeply discourage them and many others.  It would be a long, hard process to start over in light of that vote, not to mention that the other governments would be skeptical.  
Why the three components?  The community centre and arena were the original motivations. They are part of the vision that Betty Meredith and her family support and donated the land for building.  The schools, the municipality and activities such as basketball need the double gym for a wide range of programs.  Revenue wise the arena subsidizes the other two parts. More than half arena users would be from Chelsea.  
Some insist on an indoor soccer field house.  It could also “make money” but there are problems.  As little as one quarter of users would be from Chelsea.  It costs too much for our budget.  The intergovernmental agreements would need renegotiation to get higher contributions.  
Rather than build a $1.8 million indoor soccer facility, why not invest less than $75,000 for a removable soccer surface for the double gym. If the demand exceeds its capacity, re-examine and possibly get private funds for an adjacent facility.
Building just the community centre could actually cost us more than the Meredith Centre, about $3.5 million standalone versus $2.6 million net for the Meredith Centre.  Standalone it might not be eligible for two thirds funding by the MRIF program.  It makes no “regional contribution” – one of the criteria of the MRIF funding program while the arena and double gym do.   Without the cross-subsidization by the arena and excess heat pumped out of the arena to heat it, standalone operating costs would be higher.  
Most importantly, the Meredith Centre provides all the recreational and cultural infrastructures that we need at a reasonable cost, about $60 dollars/household/year (or less since costs such as borrowing have fallen).   
 Seize this opportunity!  Build it now!

 Dugald Stewart

Chelsea