Lewis Farms rec centre finally gets nod from Edmonton city council

Two major recreation centres in Edmonton are closer to becoming bricks and mortar after city council approved funding in its budget deliberations Tuesday. 

Council approves $283M to move ahead with long-envisioned west-end rec centre

A City of Edmonton rendering of the Lewis Farms community recreation centre. (City of Edmonton)

Two major recreation centres in Edmonton are closer to becoming bricks and mortar after city council approved funding in its budget deliberations Tuesday.

Council agreed to fund $283 million for the long-envisioned Lewis Farms rec centre, after a motion from Andrew Knack, Ward Nakota Isga councillor.

Council also voted to increase the budget for the Coronation Park Sports and Recreation Centre

"They are gaps that exist in our city today that need to be filled," Knack said during the meeting Tuesday. 

"Our pools are oversubscribed across the entire city," Knack said. "The minute programs open up, they are booked within hours and that's because there isn't enough space."

Single-sheet ice rinks across the city are set to be retired soon, he said, so the arenas at Lewis Farms will fill that need as well. 

Council voted 12-1 to approve the funding for Lewis Farms, with Coun. Michael Janz the lone vote against. 

Construction begins next year on the project, which is slated to be complete by 2026.

Lewis Farms had been delayed in previous years, as council tried to hold down tax hikes. 

Knack's motion for the capital funding removed an academic centre part of the project, which once had the cost pegged at $321 million.

The funding will come from the city's debt load. 

"I know the cost is high," Knack told council. "This project is ready to build so the longer we take, the more it drives up the cost." 

Sarah Hamilton, councillor for Ward sipiwiyiniwak, spoke in favour of the projects, noting that Lewis Farms is more than a sports facility — it includes a library, a district park and multipurpose rooms for community groups. 

"The opportunities for everything from substance use-disorder support groups to child care within a community — these are the kinds of things that we take for granted that having a public facility provides."

Council approved a $41-million increase in the budget for the Coronation Park Sports and Recreation Centre at 114th Avenue and 142nd Street.

Coronation is estimated to cost $153 million, up from the original $112 million budget in 2014. 

Erin Rutherford, councillor for Ward Anirniq, said the community has been waiting for the recreation centre for years and will present many opportunities for youth. 

"People will be wanting to reconnect with their community, wanting to be out and hopefully in the back end of this pandemic and into recovery," Rutherford said. "And recreation facilities like this are going to be essential to that process." 

The Coronation project includes a world-class velodrome that's expected to attract international sports events. 

"In the economic landscape we're in, many might see recreation facilities as frivolous," Rutherford said. "But I want to be clear that, to me, one of the reasons that I support this specific project is because I see there is both an economic and social benefit."

Councillors proposed some 50 motions at the budget meeting Tuesday involving reallocation of millions of dollars.

Dozens of programs and projects for 2022 may be altered by the end of the week as council make changes to next year's operating and capital budgets.

Ward Dene Coun. Aaron Paquette proposed freezing the the adult cash fare for transit at $3.50 instead of raising it to $4, which would cost $3.5 million in transit revenues.

Janz put forward a motion to reduce the Edmonton Police Service budget by $11.9 million — the allotted increase in the EPS 2022 budget.

He suggested the money be reallocated to initiatives on addressing homelessness, community safety, social services and response programs.

Council is slated to continue debating and voting on motions Tuesday night and the remainder of the week before finalizing next year's budgets on Friday.