A new arena at Planet Ice has been costed out at $23.5 million. (Contributed)

Refresher for recreation re-do in Ridge

New council gets update on $49.5 million in projects

Maple Ridge’s new council got a refresher last week on the multi-million-dollar recreation re-do that will bring new playing fields, mini-parks and a fresh sheet of ice to the city, at a borrowing cost of $49.5 million.

As to whether the city will have to go to the bank for that full amount depends on the arrangement worked out between the city and RG Properties, which owns Planet Ice.

The recreation upgrade includes borrowing $23.5 million to build a new arena next to the existing Planet Ice facility. But the exact kind of arrangement that will be worked out between the city and RG Properties remains a complex work in progress.

Recreation general manager Kelly Swift said that the city and RG Properties are looking at range of options, any of which must fit in with the existing agreement – where the City of Maple Ridge buys ice time for minor sports from RG Properties’ existing arenas.

“We’re still in discussions right now,” she said Tuesday, adding an update will go to council in a few weeks.

“There’s an existing agreement in place, so there are some obligations attached to that existing agreement.”

Coun. Gordy Robson said one possibility is that RG Properties could just build the new arena, and lease the ice out to the city, as it does with the other two ice sheets.

“I think that’s one of the avenues being negotiated,” Robson said.

Other sources of cash could incrementally reduce the city’s total borrowing tally.

Chief financial officer Trevor Thompson told council on Nov. 27 that community amenity charges could reduce the amount borrowed for recreation projects.

The city, in 2016, introduced community amenity charges, years after most cities, that asks developers to pay an additional flat fee for every new home built.

To build a condo, for example, a developer would have to pay an extra $3,100. Such charges have already raised $5.5 million for city coffers.

Robson added the community amenity charges are a “fundamental change” for the city.

“This change we’ve made is going to allow us to continue on with projects like this,” he said.

He added that other revenue sources could help with the costs as the facilities are built.

“We’re not committed to that borrowing at this stage, unless we need it to complete the projects,” Robson said.

The city got the OK last February to borrow $49.5 million for: a new arena at Planet Ice in the Albion flats at a cost of $23.5 million; a new Albion community centre, $8.5 million; two all-weather fields next to Thomas Haney secondary, $7 million; lobby and change room re-dos at the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre, $3.5 million; upgrades to Hammond Community Centre and Maple Ridge secondary track, at $2.5 million each; two mini-parks in Silver Valley, $1 million; and improvements to the Whonnock Lake canoe and kayak facility, $1 million.

Taxpayers approval came via the alternative approval process, as part of which at least 10 per cent of voters have to oppose a project in order to defeat it.

To pay for the borrowing, homeowners will see their property taxes jump yearly by .35 per cent a year, for seven years, to pay for a recreation improvement levy.

Seven years of cumulative increases of .35 each year, will add up to another $60 a year for the average home at the end of that period.

Parks manager Valoree Richmond told council that improvements to the Maple Ridge secondary track and the Whonnock Lake kayak and canoe facility are two priorities in order to prepare for when Maple Ridge hosts the 2020 B.C. Summer Games.

Installing lights at the track, next to the new Karina LeBlanc Field, will allow people to use the track at night, during the winter.

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Renovations underway at Maple Ridge Leisure Centre. (Contributed)

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