The facility will also be known as a new name moving forward — JBS Canada Centre — thanks to a $1 million donation from JBS Canada to secure the facility’s naming rights.
JBS Canada Centre includes an aquatic centre with wave pool and waterslide, an arena, curling rink, fitness centre and multipurpose rooms.
The renovation and expansion, which took just shy of two years, resulted in the addition of a multi-purpose field house and soccer centre, child care centre as well as a new space for the Brooks Public Library.
While those behind the scenes have likely felt the process has been a long one, the construction was finished earlier than originally anticipated with handover of the spaces in early February, rather than the end of March, says Russ Tanner, manager of recreational and facility services for the City of Brooks.
“We’re working through some small deficiencies, but occupying all the space now,” he adds.
Construction went well thanks to mild weather through the winter months which didn’t result in any situations where work could fall behind schedule. Tanner also praises the company overseeing the project, Chandos, which ensured a strict construction schedule was followed and who allowed for some of the interior work to be done last summer as opposed to earlier this year when the building was turned over to the City.
“The flexibility and strategic focus of the group managing the project kept it on track,” he adds. “They did a lot of little things. We were very impressed with Chandos — their decision making and their communication.”
The company, which was the lead construction management contractor for the project, even went so far as to donate $37,500 to the City to sponsor a multipurpose room in the JBS Canada Centre.
The new library space was turned over to library officials in mid-March and they hoped to be operating for the beginning of May.
The grand opening celebration May 13 from noon to 6 p.m. will be a chance for residents to check out the facility and see the improvements and new spaces. They can also take part in free activities such as volleyball, soccer, lacrosse, pickleball, badminton, swimming, aquafit, a spin class and a fitness class. The children’s play area will also be available for open play all day, but is limited to 40 children at a time per hour.
“We want to show the community all the things that we offer now,” adds Tanner.
The cost of the project came in at just over $21.5 million, slightly under the total budget.
With the generous donation from JBS Canada, the fundraising goal was exceeded. Tanner says that gives City Council the ability to look at some additional items they may be able to pay for, such as helping cover the cost of the turf the local Grasslands Soccer League wants to install.
“They haven’t been quite as successful (in their fundraising), so council could consider helping with that,” adds Tanner. “Our projections are that there will be a surplus, so we have some flexibility in what we do there...”
He acknowledged the generosity of JBS Canada who has committed $50,000 per year for 20 years to the leisure centre for naming rights.
The company has also committed $50,000 per year in memberships over and above the $1 million total, by offering their employees memberships to the leisure centre at half price.
Sustainability of the facility and the ability to continue to pay for it in years to come isn’t a concern for City officials. A business plan was completed prior to expansion, as well as a rates and fees comparison with other similar-sized facilities in the region.
“We actually found we had very, very low rental rates for our facilities. Council always said it needs to be affordable,” points out Tanner, about the busy leisure centre.
Drop-in rates for users were found to be in the top range of pricing, while rental rates were found to be at the bottom of the scale. The resulting decision was to leave drop-in rates and memberships as they were for a couple of years, but start raising rental rates by six per cent each year. This year is the third year of those increases, resulting in an overall 18 per cent increase. That still puts the rental rates below the average in the comparisons used.
“User groups were made aware, and their comments to us were that they mostly saw this coming,” adds Tanner.
Rates are changed every year in August, so it will depend on council whether additional increases are necessary moving forward.
To try to stem some concerns of the cost of using the facility, the Youth Assisted Pass Program (YAP Pass) has been popular. It provides a free leisure centre membership to students in grades 7-9 from Brooks and the surrounding area. The program received provincial recognition from the Alberta Recreation and Parks Association. In the past year, 139 Grade 7 students redeemed a pass, 104 Grade 8 students and 100 Grade 9 students.
Tanner says the junior-high years are the ages when students will start to create active lifestyles and choose to make physical activity a habit.
There is also help available for high-school students who struggle to afford a membership, in that a portion or up to the full amount of a pass can be redeemed.
Tanner says officials will continue to monitor fees and rates in the coming years and make adjustments as necessary.
Information about the JBS Canada Centre can be found online at: http://www.brooks.ca/535/JBS-Canada-Centre.