Community partners are ready to hit the ground running and get construction started on the redevelopment of Central Park as soon as possible.

Members of the Light Up Central Committee and the Central Community Board made a deputation to city councillors at a Committee of the Whole meeting earlier this week, explaining how they foresee the new clubhouse operating in the future.

Board member and owner of Kenora’s Standard Insurance branch, Gord McCool, started off by thanking the city and the community for their continued commitment to the Central Park project.

“It’s been a little bit of a frustrating road as we had hit some roadblocks, but we’ve had a tremendous amount of positive things happen as well. We are at the edge of this, and we just have to push past the tough adversity of finding out about the ground under the building site.”

The project had to be delayed and redesigned after finding out that the site’s soil conditions were not favourable for a concrete slab for the outdoor rink, due to the depth of the rock underneath, in October.

McCool says while the news was a ‘punch to the gut’, the board continued pushing for the project as an important piece of the community. He says the newly revamped park will be especially important for youth’s health and wellbeing coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For my brother and I, we grew up in low-income housing and [Central] was our sports,” said McCool. “That was our connection with a healthy environment for kids and for our family. It gave us options that some people may not have had. Low-barrier options are important in the community.”

''Design courtesy of the City of Kenora. 

“This is a tremendously positive project. It’s right in the centre of town. People coming around that corner, seeing the lights and seeing forty or fifty kids skating, that’s what we need in this town. We’re committed to get to that final stretch.”

That commitment does come with a $153,590 price tag, however. The project’s proposed $1.3 million contract with Kenora’s Solid Construction includes a contingency loan from the city to the Central Community Board to help pay off the rest of the project’s costs.

McCool explains that they plan on reaching out to community businesses for corporate sponsorships, community partners and organizations, charitable organizations and more.

“100 per cent we’re going to get this done,” adds McCool. “We have aggressive goals on getting it done before even the construction’s finished. We want to put this behind us and move along to having this as a multi-use facility. It’s going to be spectacular.”

Councillor and past president of the Light Up Central Committee, Councillor Chris Van Wellegham, said he’s 100 per cent behind the project, but asked who will be in charge of the clubhouse’s ongoing expenses once it’s completed.

McCool says they will have an active fundraising committee, people have offered to volunteer their time, they plan to reach out to long-standing community donors like Rosie’s AutoPro for support, and have plans to install vending machines and rent out the club to help pay for its costs.

Now, the only next step is to finalize the contract between the City of Kenora and Solid Construction to rebuild the clubhouse, outdoor rink and new green space. Councillors will vote on the motion at a Council meeting on February 15.

Overall, the $1.3 million contract is broken down as $101,800 raised by the Central Community Board, $596,000 from the provincial and federal governments, a $100,000 donation from council, an additional $370,000 from the city, a $70,000 donation from Solid Construction and the commitment from the Central Community Board to raise an additional $153,590.

Upgrades to Central are set to include a new outdoor rink, a new open rink area, replacement of the boards surrounding the hockey rink, paving and lining the ice surface, construction of a player bench area and the new Central Community Club.

When the final development’s complete, the city says residents will also be able to enjoy the new rink surface’s concrete base to allow hockey and basketball over the summer, beach volleyball areas, a second ice surface and a bocce ball area.

The original Central Community Club was closed and torn down in 2018 as it was beyond repair. Councillors unanimously voted in favour of rezoning Central Park in February of 2021, with funding from the provincial and federal governments coming in the following month.