Some of Regina’s mayoral candidates are promising to spend big on leisure and recreation ahead of Monday’s municipal election.
Sandra Masters dove in first, announcing on Oct. 28 a detailed commitment and financial plan for a new $85-million aquatic facility, to eventually replace the Lawson Aquatic Centre, in central Regina.
“If you’re going to be a city that attracts people and jobs, you have to provide some of these services that all other kind of competing cities are doing,” Masters said Thursday.
The proposal, which is fully detailed on her website, cites recommendations and priorities listed in the City of Regina’s Recreation Master Plan from January 2019.
Nine years earlier, the 2010 Recreation Facility Master Plan recommended that a “centrally located, city-wide indoor facility be provided to serve both leisure and competitive aquatic needs with complementary fitness amenities.”
“It’s going to take at least four years to complete a project like this. To not plan now means, ‘let’s just keep pushing it down the road.’ That’s not an option to me. The economy needs to be stimulated now,” Masters said.
Candidate Darren Bradley said adding and improving recreational facilities is “definitely a priority” if elected mayor.
“Our city has some of the top recreational programs in Canada, but we need to expand to be more competitive and draw people to Regina,” Bradley said, adding right now the city doesn’t have the facilities.
“All of these ideas are geared towards increasing tourism, increasing revenue for our hotel and restaurant industry, making Reginans proud to host such events, and making our city one of the top destinations in Saskatchewan, let alone Canada.”
On Thursday, candidate Jerry Flegel held a mayoral campaign announcement to finalize the rest of his platform at Fairchild Park in Regina’s Harbour Landing.
The three-term Ward 10 city councillor said that council often talked about “complete neighbourhoods.”
“Without a recreational facility, swimming pool, exercise room, community centre room, all these different types of things — Harbour Landing is one of the areas that is missing this,” he said, noting the facility would be akin to the Sandra Schmirler Leisure Centre.
“Those are the types of hubs these types of communities want. We can go to centralized, we can do all kinds of things, but at the end of the day people want community, they want this.”
Flegel noted that the City of Regina has to keep up with recreation and facility improvements “not just for the city, but for certain areas.”
Candidate Jim Elliott said he doesn’t have any plans for big-budget recreational spending that isn’t already outlined in the master plan.
He noted that the plan showed an appetite for non-organized recreation — walking, jogging and cycling spaces — but added some areas may be lacking structured centres.
“It’s a matter of trying to find those features that some neighbourhoods don’t have … there might be an opportunity or spot where there could be a neighbourhood centre,” Elliott said.
“But again, it would take a little more; a scan of the needs of the demands and finding kind of those areas.”
Candidate Michael Fougere, who is seeking a third term as mayor, told Global News he “fundamentally disagrees” with the promises of fellow candidates because they are not sustainable.
“It’s nice to say, ‘I want an arena over here, I want a swimming pool over there, I want a new library over here’—but how are they going to pay for it?” he said.
“It’s going to be, I would suggest, on the backs of taxpayers. And we’re in the middle of COVID and I think that’s really a difficult pill to swallow when you’re trying to move forward.”
Fougere also acknowledged the Lawson Aquatic Centre the first action item in the recreation master plan.
“What’s wrong with the Lawson centre? It’s not perfect by any means, but we have invested many millions of dollars in that and we have to make sure we can use that as well,” Fougere said.
Regina municipal election: Wards
Candidate Tony Fiacco said as part of his infrastructure initiative he will look at streets and sidewalks, along with recreation facilities.
“We need to do a better job of maintaining those recreation facilities that we have,” Fiacco said.
“Down the road—once we’re through the COVID-19 and there’s an economic recovery—we do want to build recreation facilities.”
Candidate George Wooldridge told Global News that developing recreational facilities and activities will be priorities, however, he “will not embark upon any mega projects or stadiums.”
Candidate Mitchell Howse said he also supports recreational facilities in Regina. He added that his first priority is a “comprehensive financial evaluation, department by department, of the City of Regina in order to gauge its financial position.”
“Until then, I am not willing to commit the [city] to further long-term financial obligations such as a loan, nor, willing to decommission the Lawson Aquatic Centre after spending $1.75 million in recent upgrades to the water cleaning and ventilation systems,” he said.
Howse said he would completely support any non-profit organizations willing to develop additional recreational facilities.
Candidate Bob Pearce has a list of proposed recreation builds he said will be paid for with “Mosaic Stadium advertising.”
In a text message to Global News, Pearce said he will turn Wascana Centre into the “brightest jewel in the world,” adding that he wants to develop sandy beach areas and heated paths for walking year round.
“The construction and all equipment on this project will be engineered to last 1,000 years, just like the pyramids,” he said.
Additionally, he promises to build a heated outdoor skate park, an aquatic facility with “in-ground heating to allow for swim lanes, diving, water polo” and a waterslide park located on Wascana Lake’s Willow Island.
The municipal election is Nov. 9.
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