City approves study on repurposing Ops Community Centre for other indoor sports

By Kirk Winter

City approves study on repurposing Ops Community Centre

By a unanimous vote, council approved a staff study due back at the end of the summer that will flesh out the specifics and costs of converting Ops from an arena to a multi-sport indoor sports destination.

The ‘new Ops,’ if accepted, would be able to accommodate indoor soccer, volleyball, pickle ball, ultimate Frisbee, box lacrosse, and other non-ice-related games.

Chief Administrative Officer Ron Taylor presented to council a report with a list of choices regarding the future of Ops with the help of senior staff including Craig Shanks and Jenn Johnson. The report provided council with three options that include:

  • Surplus all or part of the property and sell to a private developer
  • Refurbish as a dry floor multi-sport athletic facility
  • Demolish it and keep the land for a pending publicly funded project

Taylor suggested that the first option is not something he recommends. He would feel much more comfortable with the second option “after a deep dive has been done into specifics of the project and costing. Once staff is really involved we will have better estimates and we will be able to make better decisions.”

Councillor Pat Dunn agreed with the CAO saying, “There are lots of great ideas out there and a wealth of groups who need a facility like this. When costing for this building, make sure there is some kind of heat source included so athletes can play there in the winter.”

“There is so much potential for this project,” Dunn continued. “I am sad it won’t continue as an arena, but it will remain a thriving hub for activities.”

Councillor Patrick O’Reilly, whose ward contains Ops Community Centre, supported the re-purposing motion. “We will keep the community centre, refurbish it and this will be the first step to it remaining the community hub that it has always been.”

Mayor Andy Letham, who cast the deciding vote to close the facility as an arena last November, strongly supported the refurbishment of the building.

“I support this motion. Community needs are changing. We need to do our job and help provide local people what they will actually use. We can’t add new facilities. We are going to repurpose this facility for a different and growing market.”

Councillor Kathleen Seymour-Fagan, who took considerable heat last fall for making what some Ops residents considered derogatory comments about the maintenance and attractiveness of the community centre, “thanked the local community for getting involved and emailing council about the future of the facility.”

Councillor Ron Ashmore.

Councillor Ron Ashmore asked the mayor if included in the report could be an estimate for re-opening Ops as an arena. Letham told the ward six councillor his request was out of order “as the decision has already been made about closing the arena last November.”

While Ashmore accepted the mayor’s statement regarding procedure, he did share his belief that the original decision to close the arena was not done properly and transparently with an opportunity for the people of his ward to share their opinions and concerns.

Letham reminded council that in a previous arena report, the city allocated $130,000 to drawings for a rebuild of Ops with ice.  With that option no longer in the cards, the mayor suggested that the money be allocated to this new project to cover drawings and costs associated with the staff report.  Council backed this idea unanimously too.

“Once this report comes back we want to hit the ground running,” Letham said. “Hopefully this project could be part of the 2022 capital budget.”

Councillor Doug Elmslie wanted to know what groups will be consulted for the refurbishment report and was assured by staff that interested user groups and individuals from Ops will be spoken to as part of the information gathering process.

Councillor Emmett Yeo, while supporting the motion, was very concerned.

“I think this motion is great, but I have a concern that once again money will be spent in Lindsay while people north of Fenelon wait to see action on projects (like the wellness centre) that are important to them.”

“I understand what the councillor is saying,” Letham replied. “No northern projects will be affected by allocation of money to this project.”

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