$1.5-million expansion in works for Grand Forks’ aquatic centre

In order to increase its gym area, Grand Forks and District Recreation (GFREC) is looking to expand Grand Forks' aquatic centre by 278 square metres, with an estimated price tag of $1.5-million.

John Mackey

The Grand Forks recreation complex is planning to expand its fitness area. John Mackey, director of recreation and facilities for Grand Forks and District Recreation (GFREC), said that the expansion would help to meet the needs of the gym-goers.

The expansion would see 278 square metres (3,000 square feet) be added to the aquatic facility.

“It’s a combination of a larger weight room area and exercise and performance studio,” Mackey said.

He said the reason for the expansion is that the approximate 60 square metres (650 square feet) that they currently have for the fitness room isn’t big enough.

“The max we can put in there is maybe a dozen people, plus an instructor for a class,” Mackey said. “We’ve had anywhere up to 25 people show up for drop-in programs; we have to turn them away. We just don’t have the space.”

Mackey said that the concept of expansion had first been proposed in 2000, put on hold and then reintroduced three years ago.

“The rec commission put it back on the table in 2008,” he said.

Mackey recently made a presentation at a city council meeting, giving an outline of costs and showing the designs.

He made the presentation because the stakeholders involved – the City of Grand Forks and the rural Area D – are the people who are going to be funding it.

“So we made a presentation with all the current figures and rationales for the expansion and now it’s in the hands of the stakeholders,” Mackey said.

“I believe the city will probably have to pass a resolution at the council table to support this and that was part of the reason for the presentation from the recreation commission, to give them all the current information that the commission’s working with.”

If the plan goes forward, the next step is a referendum, which will likely be tied in to the municipal elections Nov. 19.

“It will be the same time as the municipal election. That way it’s just one more ballot and we can save some money on the cost of doing a referendum. So it’s a great time for all levels of government to do referendums.”

The city and Area D are the two tax-paying entities that fund the recreation services in Grand Forks. Mackey said they’ve had positive support from the elected officials but ultimately the final decision goes to the public.

The expansion is estimated to cost $1.5 million, likely financed over 20 years.

This would mean an increase in taxes to those two taxed entities, since the financing is charged back to taxes.

Once they’re going to proceed with the question and the referendum, the question will go out and they will provide the detailed information of what it’s going to cost each taxpayer.

“Onto your taxes it might be $60 or $70 a year,” Mackey added.

“There is a range, right now the estimated cost of the project is $1.5 million, but when you put it out to bidders, there’s a range of minus 15 per cent to about plus two per cent.”

Mayor Brian Taylor said that the city is in favour of taking the expansion issue to referendum.

“We’ll be asking the city and the regional district (Area D) what their choice is at the election,” Taylor said. “That’s if everything goes smoothly here and doesn’t get derailed.”

Taylor said that the use of the pool is 70 per cent seniors.

“The expansion of the weight lifting exercise area is part of expanding the potential of the facility to deal with aging seniors and their need for exercise,” Taylor added, saying that resistance weight training is one of the most effective ways of staying in shape for a senior.

“It really is in line with what we see as a healthy community, with our walkways, our paths,” Taylor said. “We’re a mobile healthy community for seniors and that’s what we’re trying to put out there with having those facilities expanded.”

The mayor noted that very few communities the size of Grand Forks have a pool and curling rink in the town.