14 September 2009

Much less for way more in St. Anthony

Costs for a new sports and conference centre for St. Anthony have already jumped 70% over the original budget and no one has even broken ground on the new Polar Centre yet.

In January  2007, the new centre was estimated to cost $5.676 million. By May, 2009, the project was estimated to cost $9.557 million.

But here’s the thing:  the higher cost facility will actually be a fraction of the original project.

In 2007, the new facility was supposed to include an arena seating “1,295 people, a conference centre, an indoor walking track, and will provide the necessary amenities to enable the town to host significant conferences, trade shows and other events.”

The centre announced on Monday by no less a personage than the Premier himself will house only 540 spectators and won’t have any of the conference and trade show facilities.

The Premier was in St. Anthony to announce that tenders would be called shortly for site preparation on the new arena which will be tacked onto a brand new multi-million school housing students from kindergarten to Grade 12.  Total estimated cost for the combined project is $28 million.

For those who might think the Polar Centre is still alive, guess again.  The town council still has a news release trumpeting the 1295 seat arena, but a news story in the latest Northern Pen puts it all in order:

To avoid excess engineering work the province plans to select an existing plan for one of the many K-12's built around the province in recent years. That plan would be modified to allow the school to connect to the proposed Polar Centre and to fit other local concerns.

But even the new construction project doesn’t mean the arena will have all the amenities announced on Monday:

Mayor [Boyd] Noel warned that the facility council wanted to build would have cost $15-16 million and because it's only been approved for $10-million by the province there will be significant cutbacks. One of those cutbacks is the possible loss of a planned walking track around the arena.