Nova Scotia

Study ponders $30M expansion to Mariners Centre in Yarmouth

A feasibility study looking into a proposed expansion of the Mariners Centre in Yarmouth, N.S., which would include a YMCA facility and a new curling rink, says the price tag of the project would be $30.3 million.

Expansion would include upgrading Mariners Centre and adding a YMCA and curling rink to the facility

The Mariners Centre in Yarmouth includes two ice surfaces, but a new study says it could also house a YMCA and a curling rink for about $30 million. (Mariners Centre)

A feasibility study looking into a proposed expansion of the Mariners Centre in Yarmouth, N.S., which would include a YMCA facility and a new curling rink, says the price tag of the project would be $30.3 million. 

If the project goes ahead, it would mean the YMCA on Main Street and the curling club that's housed at the Yarmouth Golf and Country Club would both shut down and be housed at the expanded Mariners Centre.

It's hoped the project would receive funding from all three levels of government, including the municipal governments for the Town of Yarmouth, the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth and the Municipality of the District of Argyle.

Capital campaigns would also be used to come up with funds for the upgraded facility.

"It would be a beautiful piece of infrastructure and would add to the entire region," said Mayor Pam Mood.

YMCA and curling club need big renos

Mood said expanding the current multipurpose facility, which has two ice surfaces, would attract people to Yarmouth and provide important services to existing residents.

Proponents say the port town's recreation infrastructure has fallen behind that of other Nova Scotia communities. Large multipurpose facilities have been constructed in recent years in places like Truro and New Glasgow, though both projects have run into financial difficulties since opening.

Yarmouth's YMCA and curling club are both outdated and in need of expensive renovations.

Yvonne Smith, CEO of the Yarmouth YMCA, said the 33-year-old facility needs repairs to its roof and exterior walls. In 2014, the estimated cost for the work was $400,000. Other necessary renovations haven't yet been costed out, including work to the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, as well as plumbing upgrades. The facility's 18-metre pool that was built in the late 1960s also needs to replaced.

A new YMCA facility would include a 25-metre, six-lane pool that would include therapeutic components, as well as a wellness and fitness centre. The YMCA portion of the expansion is expected to cost $15.4 million.

Curling rink is a 'barn'

The curling club is nearing 50 years of age and also has a laundry list of needed repairs, including a new ice compressor, floor and roof. The work is expected to cost around $400,000, said Lynn Doucette, the manager of the Yarmouth Golf and Country Club.

"It's a barn. That's what it is," she said of the rink.

Doucette finds herself in a conflicted position about the proposed expansion. She supports it on the grounds it would give the curling club more visibility and make it more viable, but it would make her life as manager more difficult.

"If they jump ship and go, I have to come up with the money that they contribute to the Yarmouth Golf and Country Club," she said.

Loss of identity

Nick Hilton, the curling director with the Yarmouth Curling Association, said there would be only one downside to a new facility.

"Being part of our club in our own building and stuff, we have a bit of our own identity to it and we'll probably lose a bit of that going to a bigger facility," he said.

The price tag for a new curling club is pegged at $6.7 million. According to the feasibility report, the club had about 130 members in 2016.

Hilton doesn't see a new curling club as something just for the members and players.

"We're only in there five or six months a year, so there's six months a year where that building would be used for other things," he said, noting events like concerts and flea markets could be held in there.

The upgrades to the Mariners Centre portion of the proposed facility would include additional multipurpose space and a walking track at an expected cost of $8.2 million.

Concern for the downtown

Coun. Clifford Hood supports the proposed expansion. The councillor is a fixture at the Yarmouth YMCA where he can often be spotted playing racquetball, but he has one reservation about the project.

"If this comes about, I hope that we can offset the negative impacts of moving the Y out of the downtown," said Hood.

He said if a much-talked-about regional arts centre came to fruition, situating it in the downtown would cushion the blow if the Mariners Centre expansion goes ahead.

Gil Dares, manager of the Mariners Centre, estimated it'll take about 12 months to get everything lined up — including funding — and up to an additional two years for construction.

While Mood supports the project, she's cautious about how much the Town of Yarmouth could contribute to it and said town staff haven't looked at that yet.

"There are ways to find money, depending on how important a project is on any scale," she said.