At a meeting in late November, council voted to build a new rec centre instead of spending an estimated $19.5 million to fix the Art and Margaret Fry Recreation Centre. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)

Dawson City vying for new recreation centre

Early estimates peg the cost of a new complex at approximately $41 million

Dawson City’s town council has decided it would rather build a new recreation centre than try and salvage the one it has now.

At a meeting in late November, council voted unanimously that it would rather build the new asset as opposed to spending an estimated $19.5 million to fix the Art and Margaret Fry Recreation Centre.

Early estimates peg the cost of a new building at approximately $41 million.

Until recently, rehabilitating the old building looked like the best option, said Dawson’s mayor, Wayne Potoroka.

But last year parts of the complex were temporarily shut down over structural concerns. Council cannot be guaranteed that the permafrost it thought was under the building is still there, Potoroka said.

The risk of spending $20 million to fix the building, without being certain that there wouldn’t be more work needed later, is one of the reasons council decided it would prefer a new build, according to the mayor.

A report to council also mentions that investing $20 million into a old building may not increase the building’s value by that much.

The community has been talking about the need to upgrade its current complex, parts of which were built in the 1970s, for years.

The $40 million estimate for a new building is based on the cost to build something of the same scope and size as the current recreation centre but on more solid ground, according to the report. It uses land at the bottom of the Dome Road as an example of a possible new location.

The operations and maintenance cost of a new building would be lower, the report says, because fewer repairs would be necessary.

If council wanted to demolish the current recreation centre and build in the same location that that would cost an additional $4.4 million and mean the community would be without a facility for one or two winters, the report says.

Potoroka said no decision on the size, scope or location of the new recreation centre has been decided yet, “but certainly nobody wants to see any cessation of ice sports in Dawson. That would not be good.”

He said he expects funding for a new building would have to come through federal infrastructure money. The first step is to reach out to the territorial government because federal money flows through the territory, he said.

The new building would likely be paid for with a combination of federal and territorial money, the mayor said. Most federal infrastructure programs require the Yukon cover 25 per cent of the cost of the new building.

Several years ago Dawson increased its mill rate and has been setting money aside for the planning and construction of a new facility. he said. “We’ve got several hundred thousand dollars right now that we could put towards the project. Because we’re on the front end of things, that would likely be (spent on) planning.”

The town is putting together a letter to the territorial government outlining its needs, Potoroka said.

Many of the details will be depend on how much money the town can expect to get, he said.

“You want to plan for the rec centre you want but you also have to, I think, be tethered to reality. You want to make sure that it’s something we can afford.”

Potoroka said there is some urgency to start planning soon. “We can do what we can do to mitigate any issues that we encounter now in the day-to-day. But according to the information we received, in five years it’s very possible that there would be some substantial work required under the administrative wing of the building.”

He said it would be “great” if construction could start in 2019.

“Frankly, the first step is making sure that we’ve got funding in place.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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