Council recommends tearing down Ops Arena in 7-1 vote
By a 7-1 margin, Kawartha Lakes Council has recommended the demolition of Ops Community Centre to be included as a $300,000 decision unit for the 2023 budget.
However, there appears to be some willingness to consider a new facility of some kind for the east end of Lindsay.
Director of Community Services Craig Shanks reminded councillors that the arena is 48 years old, and well beyond its life cycle.
“The building is very old,” Shanks said. “In 2014 and again in 2016 it was identified as a building in need. Since the building was closed in 2020 there has been more damage done. In 2021, the structure experienced more roof failure.”
Shanks added that the city has 16 existing community centres that are not being fully utilized, and Ops is “not needed.”
“The property will stay within the city portfolio,” Shanks said. “In the future the property could be there for other uses.”
Councillor Patrick O’Reilly, who has been a vocal defender of the community centre that has been the social hub of his ward for almost a half century, was the first councillor to broach the possibility of a new, possibly privately built, Ops Community Centre.
“I have talked with Dennis Callaghan who was hoping to refurbish the building,” O’Reilly said. “He and his committee have agreed that putting good money into a bad facility did not make sense. With Flato (home builders) developing between 600-1,000 acres close to Ops we hope that the developer might be interested in building a community centre. Bromont Homes has three different projects in the area. We will see what decisions a new council makes. Hopefully some of the pieces of Ops can be repurposed, perhaps for an outdoor rink.”
O’Reilly said that with as many as 10,000 people moving into the east ward as the Flato and Bromont developments fill, a new facility with a main floor community centre would be the route to go. O’Reilly also said that in his retirement from council he will be assisting Callaghan and his committee in any way he can to help Ops obtain a new facility.
“We are not taking the land away from the community,” councillor Pat Dunn said. “We will be left with vacant land and a place to build again. I am saddened to see the building go. It is time to prepare for the next chapter in that site’s life.”
“This is about the affordability factor,” said Mayor Andy Letham. “We can’t keep going forward with underutilized facilities. There is nothing to prevent a future council from moving forward with something else. The building is falling apart. It is better to build a new one if needed. It is time to bring it down.”
“This was a hard decision,” Deputy-Mayor Tracy Richardson said. “There is not enough money. Future councils are going to have to better manage their assets. We can’t keep going around and around on this issue.”
Councillor Ron Ashmore, whose ward includes parts of Ops Township, told council he would oppose the vote to demolish Ops.
“This is not about bricks and mortar,” Ashmore said. “This is about the blood, sweat and tears of a previous generation. Thousands have signed the petition to save Ops. The building could still be renovated. It is located at the epicenter of growth in Kawartha Lakes. Many of the locals believe it will never be rebuilt. I represent many of the people in Reaboro and they were hoping to still use this building.”
Ashmore promised to call for a voice vote at the next regular council meeting on March 22 when the decision unit approval is held so that people of Ops will know where each councillor stands on this issue.