The city’s soccer fields got it. The ball fields have had it for years, and will get it in spades this summer when they relocate to Carrie Jane Grey Park. Massey Stadium is an ongoing beneficiary of it. Every indoor sheet of ice in the city stays frozen and clean because of it. The Prince George Cougars and Prince George Spruce Kings wouldn’t be here without it.
It’s called government assistance.
And the Family Y, along with two local soccer associations, are asking city council for a little of it.
“All of our recreational facilities, including the YMCA facility, receive some form of public support,” said Colin Reid, the Y’s executive director. “The amount of property tax support that the YMCA gets on our leased property that the city holds is the equivalent of the property tax support that baseball groups get on the diamonds that are held by the city of Prince George. Those are investments in the community.”
Reid and the soccer community have scaled back their joint proposal to expand the Family Y facilities.
The $7 million proposal (down from the original $14 million) now only includes the construction of new basketball courts, an indoor soccer pitch and an indoor running track.
They are now asking for $3.5 million from the city to help build the facility.
It’s half of the $7 million they were originally seeking, an amount that caused city council to push the request off its five-year capital plan.
The Y would also take over the operating costs of the facility once it is built, said Reid.
It was a point not lost on Councillor Cliff Dezell, who noted it is a claim few other recreational facilities in the city can make.
“That’s significantly important because most of the other facilities we in fact subsidize in one way or another,” he said.
Even so, there were some councillors who objected to the construction of another recreational facility on the taxpayer’s dime.
“What I’ve heard out in the community is timing and the money,” said Councillor Glen Scott. “It’s simply the wrong time.”
Councillor Brian Skakun agreed the city has put a priority in its capital spending plan on infrastructure maintenance and improvement.
“If the intent is to support the idea, I won’t,” said Skakun. “I support a referendum. We have to look at other priorities in the community.”
Reid said his organization and the soccer associations support a referendum if council decides not to make the decision on its own.
“The good news about going to a referendum is that all the people that are championing this on a positive side can collectively stand up and sell it and promote it and try and convince taxpayers that, yes, this is a worthy investment of taxpayers’ money.”
Council ultimately left its decision-making until the end of April. That’s when staff will return with a report on the matter.
They will look at whether it is possible to offer a capital grant – which would then be repayable to the city – and whether the Y could afford to operate with the additional financial burden.
They will also consider the impacts on the city’s debt load if council decided to support the project in its capital plan.
Staff will also make recommendations on the implications of a city-wide referendum on the issue.