FAIRMONT– The Community Center Advisory Board was introduced to Tom Betti of 292 Design Group, the architecture that will lead the programming and design of the proposed Community Center, at its Wednesday afternoon meeting.
“It’s really in our wheelhouse. We have done extensive work on community centers, arenas, aquatic centers and country homes for over 30 years,” Betti said.
He said there was a stakeholder programming session last week where they talked about the desired spaces in the building as well as the overall size of the building.
“I don’t think anyone was asking for the world. I think they were reasonable in their needs and wants,” Betti said.
The five main components of the project are a sports complex, water sports, ice, a multi-purpose fitness centre, and then the “glue” which includes corridors and halls. The next step is to look at square footage and conceptual ideas on how to fit it all together.
Dick Strassburg of Tegra, the city owners’ representative on the project, said that whenever a large project like this is launched, they consider all the potential needs of the community. However, Strasbourg said the project is oversized for what they see as communities that can manage. He said a lot of time-based features will be added in phases.
“Another overall comment is… coming into this community, you have a declining age in this community. Where is the future of the community in the next 20 or 30 years and what attracts young people? Strasbourg said.
He said that here, like in other communities, there are labor shortages and child care shortages.
“Not many young people come back here. The demographics here honestly don’t look too good. It’s not atypical. That’s one of the attractions we see with a community center,” Strasbourg said.
Regarding the characteristics of the community center, Strasbourg said that it is necessary to separate the wants from the needs.
Betti shared some additional details that were discussed during the stakeholder meeting. Board member Brandon Edmundson asked how many more stakeholder meetings would be held before they were ready to move forward.
“I think we’re at a point where we can put together a general design,” Betti said.
Board member Mike Edman asked if the YMCA was involved in the stakeholder meeting and Betti responded that they were, which was critical as operations will be a big driver in the design process. He also said 292 Design Group had worked with the YMCA on projects before.
Edmundson pointed out that the YMCA has been retained by the Fairmont Area Community Center Foundation to begin keeping operating cost estimates.
Edman asked what kind of schedule they envisioned, and Betti said they hoped to get through the first stage of schematic design by November.
Randy Lubenow, board member, said one of the things the community wants is a pool, so when talking about what to include and what to expect, it would be hard to sell to the community without including a swimming pool from the outset.
Board member Michele Miller added that (ice) hockey is also a big draw and will bring revenue.
Returning to the timeline, Edmundson said that from a fundraising perspective, they needed to be able to present a project to city council by the end of the year. He underlined the importance for the board of holding a November date.
“We are far from the starting point and that causes problems. It causes problems with the donors, in the community and it causes more division in the community because it seems like things are not moving,” said Edmundson.
He suggested that in the future, a representative from the Foundation, the YMCA and various contractors be present at the community center’s monthly advisory board meetings. He also added that the council could start meeting every two weeks if necessary.
As for next steps, Strasbourg said they should get general designs from the stakeholder meeting within the next two to three weeks. These will then go to the Construction Manager, Kraus Anderson, for pricing and cost estimates.