Plans coming together for new indoor sports complex

Artist concept of the Indoor Multi-Use Recreation Facility proposed for Sarnia. Submitted Image

Tara Jeffrey

Sarnia is holding one more round of public consultations before moving ahead on a $26.4-million indoor recreation centre equipped for soccer, running, baseball and other activities.

City council voted unanimously last week to move to the final stage of public consultation for the Indoor Multi-Use Recreation Facility, with final recommendations expected Feb. 28.

“Many feel that Sarnia’s youth and children need more diverse year-round opportunities, so that becomes one of our guiding principles for this work,” Steve Langois of Monteith Brown Planning Consultants told council.

In earlier community surveys and stakeholder interviews 94% of households said an indoor multi-use facility should be a “high priority” for council.

“We’ve advanced this project quite a bit through this study. I know the community has had these discussions around a similar facility for many years.”

The draft feasibility study presented to council outlined the preferred components for the facility, including indoor turf fields, an indoor track, batting cages, activity room and support spaces.
“Two of our highest priorities — both of which have the potential to serve the widest range of users — are an indoor turf facility and indoor walking track, with more than 50% identifying those components as ‘must-haves,’” he said.

The proposed $26.4-million development includes three fields, along with batting cages and indoor track. A second option, pegged at $33.3 million, includes an additional FIFA-sized field with greater tournament potential, Langois noted, with an elevated walking track and batting cages.

“We’re over 100,000 square-feet of footprint with both these options, so this isn’t something that can go in every park or area of the city,” Langois said.

With input from council, ten potential sites were identified, with Lottie Neely Park, the Western Research Park, and Germain Park the top three.

“Each site has its advantages and disadvantages, but from our perspective, Lottie Neely checked all of the boxes,” Langois said of the property currently leased by Bluewater Gymnastics and Sarnia Girls Soccer.

“It’s geographically central in the community, has excellent access from Highway 402 and Modeland Road, it’s municipally owned, it’s a known recreation destination, has potential for shared infrastructure, and has potential for shared programming as well, with soccer and gymnastics.

“But it does have its challenges as well — we’re very aware of that,” Langois added. “In terms of size, we would have to make sure the facility does fit.”

Mayor Mike Bradley said he has serious concerns about Lottie Neely, having worked with the Girls’ soccer and Bluewater Gymnastics programs.

Langois said consultants did not discuss the site plan with either group, but “hope to hear more from them through the public input period that we’re about to embark on.”

Coun. Brian White wasn’t sold on either east-Sarnia location.

“Lottie Neely and Western Research Park are very car-centric as well; I don’t see that either of them are easily accessible by foot or by active transportation,” he said, while asking staff about a multi-use trail proposed for that area. “Because it seems to me, that without that, then this facility… becomes exclusive to only those folks who have access to vehicles.”

David Jackson, the city’s engineering and operations general manager, said the timeline for the London Line trail is “largely uncertain” but could be two to four years away.

A virtual public information session will be held Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. (pre-registration is required). The city’s Speak Up Sarnia web page includes more information, as well as the draft feasibility study for public review.

Written comments can be submitted to the Parks and Recreation Department by Feb. 7, using parksandrecreation@sarnia.ca or by mail to 255 Christina Street North, Box 3018, Sarnia, ON, N7T 7N2.