News

Lewis Centre in Courtenay due for renovation, expansion

The City of Courtenay is taking the first steps toward a major $5-million renovation and expansion of the Lewis Centre.
As part of its budget discussions last week, council gave city staff the green light to begin design work for the proposed renovation and expansion project.
Randy Wiwchar, the city's director of community services, and consultant Blair Pettis unveiled the idea last Wednesday.
The Lewis Centre has been providing recreational services to Courtenay and the Comox Valley for 65 years and has been an integral part of downtown, hosting events such as Comox Valley KidsFest, the Highland Games and many sports tournaments, noted Wiwchar.
"It has been the heart of the community and a gathering place for people of all ages," he said. "It's part of Courtenay's history and culture. It's much more than a recreation centre."
The Lewis Centre serves all age groups and is well-known for its inclusive programming and support for families who need financial help to participate in programs, noted Wiwchar.
The Lewis Centre was last renovated in 1992, and the need for more program space has become evident, Wiwchar told council.
"The building has been maintained well and still serves its purpose well, but it's been 20 years," he said.
Some of the challenges include lack of space for programs and staff, an overcrowded weightroom, lack of accessibility, energy inefficiencies, lack of storage space and congestion in the hallway near the preschool, according to Wiwchar.
A feasibility study identified that the Lewis Centre can be expanded in two directions, a project that would be divided into two phases.
Phase One would potentially add 14,000 square feet at the back of the building toward the ball diamonds. This would provide a new weightroom, meeting space, storage space, a crafts room and a special needs, according to Pettis. The addition would need to be built at a higher elevation due to flooding concerns.
The second phase would expand to the side toward the skatepark, which would need to be relocated.
Parking is an issue at the Lewis Centre, and the feasibility study determined that parking can be improved in phases.
Pettis says the cost estimate is in the $4.8-million range to do all of Phase One, including a mechanical upgrade and soft costs for design and geotechnical work.
The design work is being proposed for 2011 and is budgeted in the city's financial plan for $361,400, and if the actual project is approved, it could begin in 2012, Wiwchar told council.
Coun. Murray Presley was concerned about providing facilities like ball diamonds, a weightroom and a preschool, which are being offered in the private sector.
"I think we should be looking at what we're providing and who we are providing it for," he said. "If we're going to spend that kind of money, let's spend it on increasing services that are not available in the private sector."
Coun. Manno Theos countered that people who use the weightroom at the Lewis Centre, including many seniors, may feel more comfortable there than at a private gym.
"I think at the end of the day, we are trying to promote more people to get involved in fitness and live a healthy lifestyle," he said. "I see (the weightroom) often full with people who might not feel comfortable in a private facility. I think that's where our niche is and where we can assist people."
writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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