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Praise, concerns greet release of Lewis Centre expansion details

THE CITY OF COURTENAY has unveiled design plans for the Lewis Centre expansion and renovation project. - City of Courtenay
THE CITY OF COURTENAY has unveiled design plans for the Lewis Centre expansion and renovation project.
— image credit: City of Courtenay

Lewis Centre design plans presented at a public information session Thursday were generally received warmly, with a few worries.
Amid much praise for the designs, some concerns from the public surfaced such as what the renovated squash courts would look like, the usability of the new outside covered area, and potential flooding of the renovated area.
The expansion to the west of the existing building will add about 11,200 square feet to the recreation centre and about 3,200 square feet of existing space will be renovated.
Project highlights include: a new 4,000-square-foot wellness centre, a new multipurpose room, larger change rooms, accessibility improvements, a seating area for waiting and socializing and energy-efficiency upgrades throughout the existing building.
Project manager Blair Pettis noted the ground under the new part of the building will be raised one metre to protect it from flooding, but the renovated area will remain as is.
One information session attendee questioned why money is being spent to raise the expansion area when the original part of the building will still be at risk of flooding.
Pettis said the expansion must be raised to meet the requirement for new buildings according to the city's floodplain bylaw.
"The city must lead by example," said Pettis, pointing out two new commercial buildings in the area that had to adhere to the bylaw.
A few people brought up concerns about the new outside covered area and what it will look like, as they said the current covered area is an important part of the facility. The new covered area will be near the baseball diamond. The space will be a different shape but Pettis assured them the new area will still meet the needs of the diverse user groups.
Although the renovation includes a squash court upgrade — which will raise the ceiling to legal height for tournaments — a couple of squash players told Pettis about spots where the ball hits and goes dead.
Pettis had first said there were no plans to replace court flooring, but said he would look into it after the squash players spoke up.
The design plans also show a glass partition between the squash foyer and the reception area to reduce noise out in the reception area, but Pettis noted this idea has been scrapped and other solutions are being looked at.
"It's a clear problem and we're working on it," said Pettis. "All options are on the table now."
Although the main components of the designs like foundation and walls are complete, the public can still provide ideas to the city on small 'tweaking' issues. One information session participant asked about handrails throughout the building for easier accessibility. Pettis said this idea had not been considered yet; he told the man his point was well taken and the matter would be looked into.
The designs and project information are on the city's website at www.courtenay.ca. Comments can be e-mailed to recreation@courtenay.ca.
Four new boilers will be installed this summer, as part of the mechanical upgrade. Then the excavation of the expansion area will begin this August. Foundation work is expected to start in October, followed by framing over the winter.
In the spring, everything in the existing space will be moved over to the new area and work will begin on the renovation to cause the least disruption to programming. Next May to July is expected to be the most disrupting time in the project when the renovation is in full swing and the remaining mechanical upgrades take place.
The project is expected to cost $5.4 million, with $1 million to come from gas tax revenue through the federal Community Works Fund, $400,000 from the provincial Community Recreation Program, $200,000 from city reserve funds and a maximum of $3.8 million will be borrowed.
The estimated completion date is summer 2013.
writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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