The topic of funding for Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre has become the most controversial topic at Cochrane Council meetings.
This experience was only heightened in the recent 2021-23 Budget debates— The funding needed by the facility is becoming a bridge too far for some members of council.
The Town of Cochrane provided up to $1.5 million in funding to the facility to help it weather the COVID-19 storm in 2020. To date, the facility has only used $750,000 of the requested funds and CEO Blair Felesky has said the sports centre will leave the remaining funds untouched.
In the 2021 Budget, $1.7 million in funding support has been approved for the centre by Cochrane Council.
The high cost of keeping the recreation facility running has had some members of council question the operating costs of the facility— This debate has only grown since this time last year.
While it is commendable and essential councillors are working to be prudent with taxpayer dollars, the growing debate over the facility has overshadowed one of the most important question when it comes to Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre— Where is Rocky View County?
The County is 50 per cent owners of the facility, yet the burden of keeping this critical community centre running has largely fallen on the Town of Cochrane.
Why has the Town been left holding the bag on this multi-million-dollar asset, when ownership is shared with the neighbouring county and the facility is accessed by Rocky View residents?
Mayor Jeff Genung has said the Town of Cochrane is working on its relationship with Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre co-owners Rocky View County. The municipalities are currently crafting an agreement about the operations and funding of the facility.
“Those are underway, but they are taking too long, to be frank, and COVID has just magnified some of that,” Genung said. “The conversation needs to happen sooner or later.”
It is disappointing to see the conversation about the facility remain centred on operational funding, leaving Rocky View County’s responsibilities for the facility hidden in the shadows.
Felesky said the sports centre recently completed an in-depth 10-year modelling with an engineering firm and was given recommendations over the next year that about $800,000 will be needed for capital improvements between Cochrane Arena and Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre.
These and other comments indicate the costs of the facility will continue to rise— Especially during COVID-19.
By having a united front council can help the facility survive the continued adversity created by COVID-19, and encourage Rocky View County to step up to the economic plate.
Rather than continue to question the cost of the operations at the facility one can only hope council will begin to focus its efforts on encouraging Rocky View County to pay its its share to Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre.