Having been presented with community feedback and pricing options for a future recreation facility, the Village of Pemberton will now approach potential partners on the project, with preference being given to the construction of a field house.
Council received a staff report during Tuesday’s (July 2) special meeting that summarized input from the ‘Recreate Recreation’ questionnaire sent to area residents, as well as the findings of a feasibility study jointly commissioned with the Lil’wat Nation and compiled by Canlan Ice Sports earlier this year.
The report indicated that there was no clear preference among residents between a field house, arena or pool based on the community consultation undertaken. However, a field house would be the least expensive to build and operate, based on the Canlan study, and “would have the biggest impact,” said manager of development services Caroline Lamont. While there are multiple public pools and rinks available in the Sea to Sky, the field house under consideration would be somewhat unique.
“It appears at this point that the field house would make an awful lot of sense because of the access and closeness of skating and swimming,” said Coun. Ted Craddock. “It could provide a huge economic benefit to the corridor and the community.”
However, council members acknowledged that it will be nearly impossible to move forward on any type of facility without having other organizations to partner up with, so finding that partner will be the focus for the village moving forward.
While the other local government agencies at the Lil’wat Nation and Squamish-Lillooet Regional District are among the potential partners Pemberton will approach with the concept, there’s also The Hill Academy, which has expressed interest in occupying the independent school site on the Sunstone Ridge lands as early as the 2014-15 school year. Since the school’s curriculum is athletics-focused, The Hill Academy’s interest in the site is pending the village’s decision on whether or not it will pursue a new recreation facility.
Council is expected to receive a staff report at Tuesday’s (July 9) regular council meeting that will further explore how a public-private partnership (P3) with an organization like The Hill Academy could work.
“At the top of the list, because they’re the most time-sensitive, (I’d like to) further explore the relationship with The Hill Academy,” said Coun. Mike Richman. “My feeling is that we should push forward on all of it, but really push forward with The Hill Academy, see what a P3 would look like with them.
“Personally, I’d like to see a field house through a P3 with The Hill Academy on our property as opposed to theirs … but I’m open to anything.”
Council members seemed to agree that working with the school was also ideal, since the institution would bring dozens of full-time jobs and students that would provide an economic boost.
The village’s preferred location for the facility, a gravel pit donated to Pemberton by Sabre, still requires approval for non-farm use from the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC). Village officials are hopeful that the property will be discussed by the ALC during meetings this month.
Cam McIvor of Sunstone Ridge attended Tuesday’s meeting and said he was encouraged by the action being taken by Pemberton council. However, council wasn’t able to give him a definitive answer when he asked for a firm commitment to a delivery date on a new facility.
“Everything’s tracking really well, but if Whistler builds a field house or a second (arena) pad, what happens?” asked McIvor. “It impacts the business model of the school, our facility and everything else.”
Acting mayor James Linklater said he expected that council would be better positioned to answer that question after meeting with all potential partners and stakeholders over the course of the next month.