City staff are finalizing plans to complete James Jerome Sports Complex, but it may not be enough for at least one city councillor.
Plans to build another, larger fieldhouse at the Paris Street sports complex are welcome, says rookie Ward 8 Coun. Fabio Belli, but if the city really wants to get its money's worth out of the refurbished complex, it must install a temporary weatherproof bubble over one of the new fields so it can be used year-round.
The city has already completed a $2.9-million renovation of the three fields and playground, including a $2.4-million artificial turf field. This was done by matching $990,000 grants from each of the federal and provincial governments and the remaining $1.1 million paid by the city.
Initially, staff had also hoped to build a new fieldhouse to include more change rooms, larger washrooms and to make it all wheelchair accessible, but the money didn't stretch that far.
In March, the city applied for a Northern Ontario heritage Fund grant of $525,000, initially to be put toward a permanent roof over the amphitheatre being built in Bell Park. However, because of rising demand for soccer and football fields, staff now recommends the money be used to complete James Jerome.
Though the province awarded the city the grant in October and the city has already announced plans to begin construction of the fieldhouse this summer, staff will ask for council's consent at its regular meeting Wednesday.
While the fieldhouse is good news, Belli will use the opportunity to ask for staff to investigate the cost of and funding options for a removable bubble over the artificial turf field that can be attached to the fieldhouse.
The artificial turf field was a terrific investment because user groups will get a lot more use out of it than a natural grass field, he said.
"But when you invest that much in a turf field, you need to get more than six months use out of it," he said. "We've spent this much ... we might as well go all the way."
Many Ontario cities, most recently Ottawa, have invested in removable bubbles and they've been favourably received, he said.
The new fieldhouse will be built to the south of the existing one, closer to the natural grass field. This may impede fixing it to a bubble, Belli said, so he'll be asking for clarification on the constr uction plans.
The projected cost of the plan presented to council is $626,000, bringing the total cost of the renovations to $3.6 million. The initial plans also called for parking lot, bleacher and pathway improvements, but it's unclear how much of these can be afforded within the new budget.