The City of Duncan has decided against contributing another $47,500 towards the construction of the new field house at the Cowichan Sportsplex.
The city had already committed $25,000 towards the project in 2020, when the total cost estimate for its construction was $1.25 million.
But a cost analysis last year of what was planned set the price tag of the facility’s construction at $2.2 million, so the project’s architects significantly modified the building to reduce costs.
The Canada Recreation Infrastructure Fund granted approximately $1 million towards the project, while local governments and other agencies committed to funding the rest.
The original concept plans for the facility, developed in 2018, called for a two-storey building that included team dressing rooms, public washrooms, meeting space, office space and associated mechanical rooms.
The updated building plan would see a single-floor structure in which the administration space is eliminated, meeting space size reduced, and the layout reconfigured.
The construction of the new building is now estimated at $1.58 million, which is still $330,000 above the original construction budget.
Last month, North Cowichan, which had already committed $95,000 towards the project in 2019, decided to contribute another $332,500 for the field house, which was the total of all the municipality’s unallocated funds that were set aside for the recently completed $2.8-million renovation project at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre.
North Cowichan then sent a letter to the City of Duncan requesting that the city also transfer the $47,500 of its unallocated funds that were intended for the renovations at the CAC towards the field house project that would act as a contingency fund to cover any other cost escalations.
But Duncan Coun. Tom Duncan said at the meeting on May 17 that the city has already granted $25,000 towards the project, and he sees the funding request as a form of double dipping.
“The money that is being asked for equals almost one per cent of a tax increase, and we have a bunch of money owing, including on our police budget, that is coming up,” he said.
“The Cowichan Sportsplex has already asked for and received a grant from the city for this building so it’s like being hit twice for funding we already said ‘yes’ to once. It makes no sense and it’s our citizens who will have to pay for it, while less than 10 per cent of the people in Duncan actually use the Sportsplex.”
The Cowichan Sportsplex is a popular regional outdoor sports, fitness and recreation park covering more than 26 acres in the Valley.
It is situated on land owned by North Cowichan, but the Sportsplex is widely used by many in the Valley and beyond.
It’s anticipated that the new field house will lead to the expansion of existing programs at the Sportsplex, and inaugurate new ones.
Coun. Garry Bruce said that when he speaks to Drew Cooper, the executive director at the Sportsplex, he is impressed with all the sports programs that are planned for when the COVID-19 pandemic finally ends, including soccer and other programs for school kids and other groups in the community.
“The Sportsplex is looking to have good facility to run community-based programs out of, and Cooper is front and centre of that and I’d like to support him,” Bruce said.
“Lots of people use the Sportsplex at all times and I would support this funding request.”
Coun. Carol Newington said she agrees with Coun. Duncan that the Sportsplex has already received funding from the city and she’s not in support of proving any more.
“As much as I use the Sportsplex and I agree that it is a wonderful thing, we have already committed $25,000 towards the new field house and I’m not sure I’m in support of giving the project almost 200 per cent more in funding,” she said.
Council voted not to provide the funding, with Mayor Michelle Staples and Bruce opposed.