Russ Sheppard (left) and Colin Sinclair (right) presented to city council on Monday night, asking for city support to get a feasibility study off the ground for a multi-use facility in Cranbrook.

Group wants to study feasibility of multi-use facility

A group of volunteers is hoping to garner support from city council to conduct a feasibility study looking at the merits of a multi-use facility in Cranbrook.

Russ Sheppard, who created Badgers Sports Management, appeared before Cranbrook city council to seek the endorsment of city council to pursue grant funding opportunities that could be directed towards a future plan.

Colin Sinclair and Michelle Kleindienst also appeared alongside Sheppard to pitch the feasibility study for a multi-use facility, which is envisioned to be an eventual partnership between all four levels of government, the private sector and public user groups.

The proposal is completely separate from what the Kootenay East Youth Soccer Association has been working on for the last year or two to build an indoor sports facility in Cranbrook.

Sheppard emphasized the need to start with a feasibility study that would find a best fit between competing local user groups and the city’s financial realities.

“In order to create a facility, the first thing we need to know is that it’s going to be used,” Sheppard said. “So that, we don’t figure out until there’s a proper feasibility study completed. What user groups are going to use it and what are they going to use? What are the needs out there?

“How many members are involved in pickleball, for instance? Can we build something a multi-sport court that can be used for basketball, volleyball and numerous other sports?”

He cited the example of youth lacrosse, which has tripled in membership over the last three years.

“Now, we’re in a position where we’ve done what we’re supposed to, which is grow, but we’re going to be prohibited from growing further if we don’t have different facilities to utilize,” Sheppard added.

The JBS Canada Centre facility in Sinclair’s hometown of Brooks, Alberta, was held up as an example, which features an ice hockey surface, an aquatic centre, courts for basketball, badminton, indoor soccer, volleyball, a fitness centre, and indoor playspaces.

In addition to Badgers Sports Management, Key City Gymnastics, Cranbrook Lacrosse Association and Core Fitness Inc. were also represented in the pitch.

“I think it’s important to note that an appropriate feasibility study will dictate the location,” said Sheppard. “I think that to get our mind set on what type of facility and where we want it is going to be narrow-minded for this group because we want to encompass possibly 30 to 40 user groups.”

Whether it’s building new facilities or expanding and adding on to existing ones will be determined by the options and recommendations that come out of the study, Sheppard added.

A municipal endorsement of the proposed study for the group was withheld to give council and staff time to consider the request.

Councillors noted after the presentation that 26 per cent of the city’s budget is earmarked for recreational programs and facility operations and management.

After the meeting, Mayor Lee Pratt said the challenge is that recreation doesn’t produce revenue.

“That’s a fact of life; it doesn’t matter what city you’re in, your recreation is a big cost,” Pratt said. “So we’re always looking at, okay, we realize we could use a facility like what they’re asking for, but what is the long-term cost of it?”

Pratt noted that a feasibility study ‘is probably a good idea’ and that council will discuss it further.

According to the city’s master recreational plan released three years ago, six goals are identified as future goals which include improving indoor recreation opportunties and increasing collaboration.

Strengths for indoor recreation identified Western Financial Place, Memorial and Kinsmen Arenas and the aquatic centre. However, challenges include no municipal gym or fitness centre, no community hall or auditorium for multi-use purposes and not enough resources to keep up with ongoing operations and maintenance.

That report recommended studying the potential of turning the Kinsmen Arena into a year-round facility for a gymnasium, as well looking at both the Memorial Arena and Western Financial Place to see how both facilities could be upgraded for further uses and activities.

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