Don’t We Have a Plan for Sports Facilities?

On 3 December 2014, almost exactly six years ago, CBRM awarded a $128,805 tender to TRACE Planning & Design of Moncton to create a Recreation Master Plan for the municipality.

Jim Scott

Jim Scott of TRACE Planning & Design presenting to CBRM general committee, 7 March 2020.

I did not think of this plan a week ago Tuesday, while listening to council discuss the need for a court sports facility in CBRM, but fortunately for me, one of my readers did and they emailed me to jog my memory and ask why a $130,000 recreation plan wouldn’t at least rate a mention in this context. Especially since, according to its authors, the plan is:

…designed to assist staff and council with prioritizing realistic recreation staff structure and municipal investments. The plan will facilitate facility conservation and/or acquisition, excess asset disposal, budget development, as well as program delivery over the next fifteen years.

I can’t claim to have read the entire thing since last Tuesday — nor to have understood all I did read (there’s a high degree of consultant-speak involved) — but I read enough to know it recommends something be done around Centre 200 (which council deemed the “preferred” site for the proposed facility), I’m just not sure what:

Centre 200 Master Plan. Centre 200 is the core of the regional rink network. This facility is also the primary events address; however, the lands adjacent to, and around, Centre 200 are not capitalized upon to ensure reciprocal economic benefit. The CBRM should develop a Centre 200 site master and feasibility plan that identifies and test mixed-use development opportunity.

Elsewhere, the authors are a little more straight-forward about the facility itself:

The municipality should explore the opportunity to expand the regional attraction of this facility by exploring a second pad at this location. This facility, when considered with facilities in Glace Bay, The CBU Canada Games Complex, and the County Arena, come together to provide significant event hosting capability that supports regional economic development.

Does this add up to support for a “state-of-the-art” two-court sports facility adjacent to the arena? Honestly, I have no idea.


Cautionary tale

I have to go off on a slight tangent here, because, as you may have noticed, the Bayplex wasn’t mentioned by name in that list of arena facilities and the description of problems with the facility included in the Master Plan is more detailed than I’d seen anywhere before. Bayplex was a nightmare.

At the time the report was written, the roof needed a $1.2 million replacement that the manager figured would be closer to $2.1 million; the board system required a $130,000 replacement; all entrance door systems needed replacing; all “skate friendly” surfaces required replacement; and the $1.2 million geothermal system installed in 2012 — involving heat pumps and ground water from the mines below the site — had “created inefficiencies” that resulted in a $28,000 monthly power bill. The system needed “a highly detailed assessment” to propose actions that would make it operate efficiently.

TRACE cautioned the municipality that it “should assess the physical and operational condition of the facility prior to committing to an appropriate level of support.”

The CBRM actually followed that advice and in 2017 contracted I.B. Storey Inc for a $35,000 “detailed investigation and analysis in advance of specification preparation for the upgrade of the existing Bayplex.”

There was some talk that the building might have to be demolished and replaced, but in the end, it was subject to a $9.75 million reconstruction, with the municipality, the province and the feds each providing a third of the funding. The scope of the work, tendered in January 2019, included extending the rink playing surface, installing new dasher boards and glass system, a new ammonia refrigeration plant, and “retaining and refurbishing the geothermal portion of the refrigeration system.” In addition, the tender called for the installation of a new air handling system.

It has since reopened as the Miners’ Forum (named for the arena the Bayplex replaced) and presumably is no longer generating $28,000 power bills.  But I have to think there are lessons here for a municipality contemplating construction of a sports facility.

Okay, back to the Recreation Master Plan…


The great outdoors

The plan contains very little discussion of indoor facilities, other than arenas. In fact, the Recreation Master Plan is so focused on the out-of-doors, this could almost be a continuation of my “embracing winter” series. The authors state very early on:

Although several indoor facilities exist within CBRM holdings, this master plan is most concerned with arenas and CBRM-owned community centres developed for the purpose of delivering critical recreational and social programs. Although the CBRM is not in the business of direct program delivery, the municipality will seek to provide program hosting buildings where significant delivery gaps occur.

A number of schools feature among the list of recreational facilities in the report (over 700 “recreation amenities” were visited and evaluated), but the focus is on their outdoor facilities. For example, of John Bernard Croak Elementary School in Dominion the report says:

Playground and basketball court located as important neighbourhood academic, social and recreational address. To be sustained in present format/condition.

TRACE worked out how many (mostly) outdoor facilities the CBRM has on a per capita basis and how those figures compare to HRM and Fredericton, NB. (I believe the “NRPA” numbers you see  refer to National Recreation and Park Association Areas and Facilities Standards which, I’ve just discovered, the organization abandoned in 2019 because “[t]here is not a single set of standards for parks and recreation that could possibly encompass the uniqueness found in every community across the country,” so I’m not going to worry too much about them.) The answer is that the CBRM compares well:

CBRM recreational facilities

CBRM recreational facilities



In his presentation to CBRM general committee on 7 March 2017, Jim Scott of TRACE focused a lot on staffing with the recreation department, and the possibility of “driving economic development” by hosting tournaments in the municipality’s “key” arenas (including the Canada Games Complex), but much of his focus was on the municipality’s active transportation program and on ensuring people throughout the CBRM have access to green space — via neighborhood parks or community parks or regional parks — and recreation programs.

He said that in the course of their public consultations, they heard from seniors that they didn’t necessarily want activities targeted toward seniors, but rather, activities integrated into recreation programs and facilities. (I think an example of this would be walking tracks within arenas, and I have to admit, this makes sense of the notion, raised during the council meeting, that a new sports court facility could also serve “seniors.”)

Scott said that the big message about youth was the need to engage them and get them off their phones and away from their screens. (The message from youth, via an unspecified number of meetings in “classroom settings,” was that they like parks but want webcams installed to “allow parents to check on their kids.” Don’t look at me, I’m just quoting the report.)

I have to admit here, that I listened to two of Scott’s presentations to council and read most of the Recreation Master Plan but I don’t really get it nor do I feel qualified to evaluate the proposed court sports facility through its lens. Fortunately, CBRM has a recreation department that worked with Scott in the development of the plan and presumably understands what it says and could use it to “prioritize realistic…municipal investments” — such as the proposed facility.

And if that staff is producing the Issue Paper requested by council, perhaps it could take the opportunity to weigh construction of an indoor sports facility against other possible uses of the money. Because I have to say, in light of the current pandemic, the Master Plan, with its focus on active transportation and out-of-doors activities, seems almost prescient.



Click to access CBRM%20Recreation%20Master%20Plan%20-%20Approved%20July%2018.pdf