Thunder Bay

City council votes to move forward on proposed multi-use indoor turf facility at Chapples Park in Thunder Bay

After more than four hours of discussions, presentations and debate, Thunder Bay's city council voted to move forward on the proposed multi-use indoor turf facility at Chapples Park.

City council voted 9-4 in favour of putting facility out to tender for construction at Monday night's meeting

Thunder Bay city council voted to move forward with the proposed multi-use indoor turf facility by putting the project out for tender for construction during its meeting on Monday night. (www.doorsopenontario.on.ca/thunderbay)

After more than four hours of discussions, presentations and debate, Thunder Bay's city council voted to move forward on the proposed multi-use indoor turf facility at Chapples Park.

Councillors voted nine to four in favour of putting the facility out to tender for construction upon completion of the tender package and to confirm the source of financing identified in the report presented before the council on Monday night.

Before the vote was held, council received four deputations from community members, including two that requested council delay making a decision until other sources of funding were confirmed, a presentation from former city councillor and current vice-president with the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition (CLE) Joe Virdiramo about the possibility of considering the construction of a new facility on the CLE grounds, and from Mike Veneziale, president of Soccer Northwest Ontario.

Veneziale said later he was very happy with council's decision.

"This decision ... was based upon the long-term gains, and what this facility can offer to our city," he said. "It's going to be utilized by so many, for generations to come."

Questions from councillors to city administration and presenters during the meeting ranged from the cost of the facility to residents, the potential impact on the business case for the facility if a private turf facility is constructed at the Golf Links Road location, the source of funding for the project and potential contributions from other levels of government, as well as the level of community support.

Councillors also debated the possibility of delaying their decision until November 2021 at the latest.

That recommendation was put forth by Thunder Bay city manager Norm Gale, who sought council's support to push the date for a decision back to provide more clarity on the city's financial status as a result of uncertainties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fact that there is no confirmed external funding to support the project came up frequently during the council debate. Specifically, the city has an outstanding application for funding through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program that would be deemed ineligible if council voted to put the facility out for tender before receiving an answer in regards to their application.

However, the motion to refer the decision was defeated by a vote of nine to four, with councillors Mark Bentz, Trevor Giertuga, Brian Hamilton and Rebecca Johnson all voting in favour of pushing back the date for a decision.

The next test for the facility will come at the city council meeting on Aug 24, when councillors will vote to confirm their decision to move forward and put the facility out for tender.

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