Skip to main content

Council rejects proposal to drastically reduce Lewis Farms Recreation Centre

City council rejected a proposal to save $126 million by significantly downsizing the long-awaited Lewis Farms Recreation Centre in west Edmonton.

Michael Janz, Ward papastew councillor, proposed the motion Monday as councillors continue budget deliberations that have already hiked a proposed 3.9 per cent tax increase for the next four years.

The $311 million project, with an estimated target completion of 2027, includes not only building a new recreational facility with multiple ice rinks and pools but also a library, district park, multi-purpose spaces, a gymnasium, and fitness centre.

Initially proposed in 2005, the project remained a part of the neighbourhood redevelopment plan since 2007. During the last budget cycle, the previous city council decided to shelve the project, with it being resurrected in the fall during the budget adjustment debate.

"This falls into the nice-to-have category," Janz told council.

"It's a remarkable facility that, if times were better in the future and there were more funds available and location that actually connected to transit," he added, "could be a possibility."

He was also concerned over the increased operating dollars needed to maintain the facility and the potential for further cost overruns as inflation rises when the city has nearly $900 million in deferred maintenance for existing swimming pools and ice rinks.

"Why would we be doing a new ribbon cutting on a new twin ice rink, for example, when we have many other facilities that are going to go the way of Scona Pool?" Janz asked.

Ward Métis Coun. Ashley Salvador said there were "major flags" in that the new facility is projected to raise the city's emission profile, not be built to emissions-neutral standards, and the lack of transit options at the site would force people to drive there.

The motion failed 8-5, with Janz, Salvador, and fellow councillors Anne Stevenson, Keren Tang, and Erin Rutherford voting in favour of drastically trimming the rec centre's budget.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi explained how the Meadows Recreation Centre in southeast Edmonton created a new community hub, with people of all ages gathering for all kinds of programming and exercise.

"People don't mind paying taxes," he added. "People don't mind paying the cost of building those facilities because it's a core thing they need."

Coun. Andrew Knack, who represents the ward the rec centre will be built in, was pleased that Janz's motion failed.

"Every community league west of the [Anthony] Henday has not planned to build a community hall because this was going to be a community hub," Knack said.

"There's still an assumption that west of Edmonton, nobody lives there," he added before the vote. "Our suburban communities are far more densely populated than almost every single mature community with the exception of Oliver, Strathcona and Garneau.

"We have to remember that they also deserve services like other parts of the city… If we want to have any chance of people being able to live in a 15-minute community, we have to build spaces like this."

A concept image of the aquatic centre at the new Lewis Farms Recreation Centre (Source: City of Edmonton).

Council still has to consider a recommendation backed by city administration to scale back the aquatic centre in the Lewis Farm rec centre to save taxpayers $58 million.

Based on the discussion at council on Monday, Knack believes it is likely that motion will pass. He hopes a greater conversation about pool shortages in Edmonton will happen after the budget proceedings.

For Janz, the decision to reject his cost-saving motion will mean finding cost savings elsewhere.

"We are struggling to find money where we can that will meet our climate goals, meet human rights goals, our housing goals," he added after the vote to reporters. "It's just so frustrating because previous councils, they set aside money for neighbourhood renewal, but they never set aside money for bridges, for pools, for all of these other amenities that we know are going to come due.

"And now this council, in 2023, is left holding the bag for, you know, 50 years, a half-century, of a lack of maintenance and renewal."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson Top Stories

Stay Connected