Multiplex perplexities

Lisa Dumontier

Two weeks ago we ran an article on our front page detailing Parks and Recreation Committee member Kevin Harland’s presentation to council which sought to have a sub-committee struck by the Municipality to focus entirely on a local recreational multiplex facility. While Harland was quite clear in his thorough presentation that the Committee is not looking to break ground on the project tomorrow, the idea of embarking on a new multi-use recreational asset has seemingly shaken the bees loose in many local bonnets.

The plan, according to Harland, is to get the ball rolling on the planning stages of a new multiplex facility with the idea that when the Cochenour arena is finally declared kaput or Goldcorp decides that the Balmertown recreation complex is no longer worth the investment, the Municipality is not left holding an empty recreational basket. And if the plan takes upwards of nine years to develop and execute, as it has for many other communities of similar size and demographic, doesn’t it make sense to be proactive and know what we want now so we can begin to develop a sense of what our next municipal recreational facility might look like and what type of funding will be required to construct the walls, lay the ice and welcome the public in the future?

There are a lot of concerns. In the forefront of those I think is the idea that this new, modern, state-of the art facility will be paid for and supported solely by tax dollars. Local residents feel they are being taxed enough and when looking at their own wish lists for the Red Lake district, there are concerns that a multiplex facility shouldn’t rank first. People want sidewalks, better parks and playgrounds. They want a splash pool at Centennial Park and walking trails to link our communities. They want a modern clinic, improved dog catching services and an outdoor shelter that is open and useable for the kids lacing their skates at the Balmertown outdoor rink.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people on the subject. One phone call in particular got me thinking about the idea of a multiplex from a different perspective. The voice on the other end of the line belonged to a Cochenour senior who expressed his concerns that a new facility in Red Lake wouldn’t offer much to a man of his age living nine miles away and his apprehension to contribute any part of his limited monthly income to such a facility. “Look at the Cochenour Airport,” he cautioned me, “it’s brand new and the brick is already falling off of the building”.

His confidence in local decision makers has certainly wavered as of late and I can see why he might find it hard to imagine getting his money’s worth of a new weight room or hockey rink but what he doesn’t know, because he wasn’t in attendance during Harland’s presentation, is that the Parks and Recreation Committee has a very clear idea of what types of services a new multiplex facility might encompass and that some of those provisions would certainly benefit seniors.

Take Harland’s suggestion that a new medical clinic and physiotherapy practice be included in site plans or Committee Member Anita Merkle’s sentiments that the new facility be a gathering place for all community members—a place for seniors to play cards and socialise, a place for new moms to push their strollers around a walking track in the dead of winter and a place for young kids to gather to play hockey, swim laps or participate in recreational programming. “The youth don’t know what the seniors are doing and the seniors don’t know what the youth are doing,” she said. “A multiplex would bring this community together because right now, despite being one municipality, we feel like five separate communities.”

Maybe she’s right. Maybe a multiplex is just what this municipality needs to bind its communities—and population—together and maybe it’s not. I don’t think the Parks and Recreation Committee is demanding that everyone be onboard with the project today but rather that we collectively put our heads together to imagine what we’d like recreation to look like in the Red Lake District ten years from now and then to determine what it will take to get there one step at a time. Forming a multiplex subcommittee is just the first step in that lengthy process.

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