Ad Hoc Committee Provides Four Options for Memorial Arena

In 2021, an Ad Hoc Committee was set up to review options for the future use of the Memorial Arena which was closed in 2019.  A public survey was posted in May 2022 and at the next Committee of the Whole (CoW) meeting on July 11, the committee will present their recommendation.  Their first choice is that it become the location for the Canadian Fire Fighters Museum which had opened in Port Hope in 1984 and operated for 33 years but then closed.  They then stored their artifacts pending finding a suitable location.  The committee’s second choice was that it become the location for Top Prize Events which stages Entertainment events, notably professional wrestling. Third choice was to issue an RFP looking for anyone wanting to develop the site and fourth was to demolish and use the site for affordable housing.

AD Hoc Committee Members

Committee
As listed on minutes of 8 June, 2022
Staff
Councillor Emily Chorley
Councillor Nicole Beatty
Councillor Brian Darling
Don Wilcox
Dora Body
Allan Proos
James Young

Director of Community Services, Brian Geerts (author of Committee Report)
Manager Arenas and Facilities, Jason Johns
Jodi Ware Simpson – support

 

Public Engagement

The staff report said:

  • 14 individuals participated in the forum, and 136 individuals participated in the survey.
  • The top three generally desired uses for the site were Recreational, Social, and Economic.
  • As a recreational facility, the public preferred racquet sports and multi-use designs.
  • As a social facility, the public preferred activities for young children and young adults, as well as affordable and rental housing.
  • The highest choice for Economic use was a Market Hall, similar to Toronto’s Distillery District, retail experiences, etc.

Major Constraints

There are some constraints that the committee considered when looking at the options:

  • There is an existing solar array contract which ends September 17, 2035. Early contract termination may be subject to significant financial penalties.
  • Building condition assessment including accessibility considerations
  • The supply of electricity to the Arena comes from the service to the adjacent Jack Heenan Arena. The installation of a separate hydro service for the Memorial Arena is in the order of $100,000.
  • Parking may be insufficient for both Arenas plus large Events.

Delegations were received from:

  • Top Prize Events – Derek Sharp and Lionel Poizner – see email from Derek in Resources below
  • Canadian Fire Fighters Museum – Will Lambert – see presentation and correspondence in Resources below
  • Coverdale Tennis Club – Virginia Mair – see CoW Agenda to download presentation
  • Cobourg Lawn Bowling – Bill Arthur – see CoW Agenda to download presentation

Summary of Four Options

In the interest of conciseness, the summary omits many details – for a full analysis see the full 17 page Committee report in Resources below – notably pages 12 thru 15.

Lease the building to Canadian Fire Fighters Museum (CFFM) for use as a museum

  • Likely financially viable
  • The proponents believe they will attract 12,000 visitors annually and employ 1-6 staff
  • Proponents are willing to pay for necessary improvements to the building
  • Museum will create volunteer opportunities.
  • CFFM is interested in partnering with other local museums/ attractions and allowing local events/ receptions to take place within the building.
  • CFFM is open to the idea of the southwest corner of the property being used for an affordable housing initiative
  • Compatible with existing agreements (Jack Heenan Arena lease and solar panel contract).
  • The CFFM is asking for a minimum lease of 10-15 years and the first 1-3 years of rental payments waived.

Top Prize Events

  • May be financially viable
  • Could potentially attract visitors and enhance entertainment options for residents.
  • May be technically viable: With renovations, the building could accommodate major events; further investigation needed regarding parking.
  • Compatible with existing agreements (Jack Heenan Arena lease and solar panel contract).

RFP to solicit additional proposals

  • With a wider reach than Engage Cobourg consultation, an RFP may generate new/unique proposals for the repurposing of the arena building.
  • The renovation and operation of the building as a multi-use facility by the Town of Cobourg is deemed too costly in light of other major projects

Demolish the Arena and develop/dispose of the land for affordable housing

  • Questionable financial viability: The penalty for breaking the solar panel contract and the cost of installing a new electrical service to the Jack Heenan Arena may jeopardize the financial viability of a housing initiative.
  • Land could be offered to the Northumberland County Housing Corporation.
  • Given Cobourg’s projected growth, it may be prudent to retain the site to meet future service demands (recreational programming, police/emergency services, etc.).

Next Steps

Staff recommendations:

  • Explore the first two options in detail by having the two proponents submit detailed business plans to staff and then staff report to the September 26, 2022 Committee of the Whole meeting with a “facility use recommendation”.

Council will be asked to accept the Committee report and approve Staff recommendations at their next CoW meeting on July 11.

Update – 11 July 2022

When the above subject came before the Council’s Committee of the Whole (CoW) Meeting, two alternatives were proposed:

  1. Councillor Aaron Burchat proposed that staff ask the County if the building could be used to help the homelessness situation.  But the committee already decided that such a proposal would be unfeasible and too expensive.  Aaron’s proposal was defeated.
  2. Councillor Nicole Beatty wanted a small portion of the land severed off for use for modular housing for the homeless.  The small section she referred to would not be needed by the Firefighters but would be needed by Top Prize events for parking.  Anyway, the Town has no budget to do anything with the land and a larger unused  Town owned area is nearby – the Tannery property.  Nicole’s motion was defeated.

The full original motion as discussed above was passed.

Resources

Main Proponent submissions

Proponent web sites

Cobourg Blog Articles

Other

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27 Comments
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Sandpiper
10 July 2022 9:36 am

Funny that nothing of Immediate importance was
Considered on a Urgent need basis .
Whats wrong with this Bunch .
As for Hydro Costs $100 K must be a Union job Don’t believe it
What will solve the problem is a second Meter between the buildings
as there is 1 principle line between them ,and we need someone with math skills
to calculate the usage of each .

Cobourg taxpayer
9 July 2022 10:34 pm

Years ago we used to visited the Firefighters Museum in Port Hope. We were the only ones there the place was empty. How many yearly visitors were there in Port Hope??? Note that Canadian Firefighters Museum are requesting the first 1-3 years as rent free here in Cobourg so no money coming in there. Who in the world allowed a solar array on the roof until 2035, on an old unused building, that could cost $100000 to break the lease? Names please! How much does the Town of Cobourg get from this lease? As far as Top Prize Events let’s see the business plan, how much will the Town of Cobourg actually make from this venture? Are they competing with the CCC that is also making a small effort to make money? I say sell the arena to the highest bidder who then takes over the lease for the solar panels. What is the market value of this property let the Firefighters or Top Prize Events or any other interested parties purchase the building and have at it!

Kevin
9 July 2022 8:31 am

Before finding a solution to a problem it is best to know what the problem is. Thanks to Bryan commenting on a Rob Washburn interview I have more information. It seems the homeless problem is people not using available resources. No doubt my statement is a simplification. Why people do not get a room at Transition House/motel and sleep in the rough is something we should be looking into. With that knowledge maybe we could then find a way to help the homeless. I do not know what the best use of Memorial Arena is but some kind of recreation facility seems the logical choice. From a tax payer point of view it could be best to sell it to the highest private bidder. That way it will not become another thing costing local tax payers for many years to come. The money from the sale could be used to help fix the harbour.

Last edited 4 months ago by Kevin
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Kevin
9 July 2022 11:35 am

For further insights, the whole Washburn interview with the Transition House Director Newman is available at

https://consider-this.ca/transition-house-has-empty-beds-but-more-needed-to-solve-homeless-crisis-says-executive-director

Some “quick facts” that may be of interest are at https://www.northumberland.ca/en/living-here/community-and-social-services-spotlight.aspx

Bryan
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 July 2022 1:34 pm

Ken,
There was also additional info released by 89.7FM at 5 pm that day after the Washburn interview. Have you found an online access to this?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Bryan
9 July 2022 6:20 pm

Sorry but no. Perhaps contact Washburn directly?

Old Sailor
8 July 2022 10:52 am

I wonder who voted for Memorial arena becoming the Canadian Fire Fighters Museum? Probably every firefighter in Northumberland County and our Mayor? Too much politics mixed into survey results? I can’t think of a worse use for Memorial Arena.

Are_n
Reply to  Old Sailor
8 July 2022 12:59 pm

I agree that the museum is a bad idea however I think the Wrestling venue would be way worse.

Informed
Reply to  Old Sailor
9 July 2022 10:01 am

Why would any firefighter care one way or another? The Mayor should care if something like a museum paid operational costs to maintain the building and bring tourist dollars to Town.

Two cents worth
8 July 2022 9:09 am

Interestingly none of the preferred choices of those who participated in the survey makes the list of three put forward…no recreational, social or economic proposition for change of use…
Makes one wonder why 136 people should bother to answer Cobourg surveys in the future.

Liz
Reply to  Two cents worth
8 July 2022 10:15 am

Affordable housing should be a priority before winter!!

Bryan
Reply to  Liz
8 July 2022 1:05 pm

Liz,

Please define “affordable housing” for the context of your comment.
Geared to income?
CMHC 80% market rent?
Other?

Merle Gingrich
Reply to  Bryan
8 July 2022 1:38 pm

How about housing for the homeless?

Bryan
Reply to  Merle Gingrich
8 July 2022 3:13 pm

Merle,

This afternoon, Rob Washburn (89.7FM) interviewed the manager of Transition House Anne Newman. She said that TH actually has a number (4) of empty beds for homeless people, a couple of “family suites” and numerous motel rooms. They have even hired two on-site full-time coordinators who are on duty at the motels.

Then Rob interviewed the Manager of the Northumberland Food Bank – who admitted that their recent audit highlighted that they have a SURPLUS of over $400,000 this year in funding due to all the extra govt funding they received throughout Covid.

So how is it that the County, Cops, social service agencies etc aren’t aware of this?

How is it that Nic Beatty and John Henderson aren’t aware of this.

Perhaps they are and there are other agendas in play.

Last edited 4 months ago by Bryan
ben
Reply to  Bryan
8 July 2022 8:13 pm

Did she say how many of the homeless on the street have been barred from TH? Homeless people often don’t follow the rules, should they remain that way because of it. I would guess that now that the County has insisted on new rules, compared to two years ago, even some of the homeless don’t qualify for TH. Where do they go or how should the Agencies deal with them?

Last edited 4 months ago by ben
Bryan
Reply to  ben
8 July 2022 9:19 pm

Ben,

Good points.
More info that hasn’t been made available to Cobourg/Northumberland residents.
It seems that as more info comes out, the messier the issue gets

Concerned
Reply to  Bryan
10 July 2022 5:22 pm

So it sounds like a lot of the issues are those who can’t follow the rules and get kicked out, I’m not saying all but if they have available space I don’t see the problem and the food bank has a 400k surplus where is the real issue?

Informed
Reply to  Merle Gingrich
8 July 2022 9:10 pm

Yes…there is a need for shelter for the homeless. This doent mean every single empty building in Cobourg should be adapted as a shelter. Whatever its use I would like to see some type of service fee applied to offset the costs to keep it. It might never be a money maker but it doesnt have to be an expense to the taxpayer either.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Informed
8 July 2022 9:19 pm

Informed, do you expect the homeless person being housed to pay the “service fee”? How would that work for those unable/unwilling to hold a job?

Informed
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 July 2022 8:49 am

I wasnt clear. I dont believe the arena should be used for housing. Im thinking of some type of enterprise that leases the building to cover Town expenses of maintaining it.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Informed
9 July 2022 9:40 am

I agree, Informed. Isn’t leasing the arena to the Canadian Fire Fighters Museum such a usage? Of course the town will need to craft a lease agreement with appropriate guarantees and penalties. Why would anyone oppose that option?

Informed
Reply to  Ken Strauss
9 July 2022 9:54 am

It may be worth investigating further. I dont know how they are funded. I do believe that the museum could potentially draw in tourists and fire buffs from the Province and even further, that would likely spend money in Town at restaurants etc. This would be a better definition of tourists than beach day trippers. It would also be unique and there would be lots of room to grow.

Last edited 4 months ago by Informed
Bryan
Reply to  Informed
8 July 2022 9:29 pm

Informed & Ben,
A service fee paid by whom? The homeless?
If the Town provides a facility, the County should pay for the related “homeless” expenses.
As I commented to JimT (Council Meeting on homelessnes pt 2):

“As indicated during Wednesday’s County Social Service Committee meeting, there are about 75 “homeless” in Northumberland, of which about 10 are in Cobourg. Finding temporary shelter for 10 people shouldn’t be that hard. Other municipalities may have “mothballed or underused” facilities that could be used to provide temporary shelter.

As indicated during yesterday’s meeting, many of the “homeless” are good people in dire need. Some are troublemakers and have been kicked out or banned from current facilities. Put the rotten apples at the back of the line. Don’t punish all for the sins of a few.

As for the money:
In May 2022, Cobourg Police received $860K from the province for homelessness, addiction, youth…
How has this money been spent?
Since May 2020 the County has received $4M for its Social Services Relief Fund.

John Henderson, as Mayor of Cobourg, County Councilor and Chair of the County’s Social Services Committee, what has this $4M been spent on?.”

Last edited 4 months ago by Bryan
Concerned
Reply to  Bryan
10 July 2022 5:20 pm

Don’t know how you go about doing it by why not a CO-Op community. It was geared to income with some subsidy available residents made up the board and take care of it. The location I lived was always beautifully maintained as well.

Concerned
Reply to  Liz
10 July 2022 5:18 pm

Once the expense is made to remove all the asbestos and all the other risks with housing someone in there.

Rob
7 July 2022 4:18 pm

Is it just me or does everything Nicole Beatty touches become part of some affordable housing plan (perhaps Chorley to a lesser degree). Is there specific type of obstacle that she can’t get over as it relates to the role of the County. Not really appreciating the Liberal policy push…

I think we should give consideration to the future plans for the Tannery District when selecting the best use of the historic Memorial Arena. We do not need some red herring abutting the Tannery project. Neighbourhoods should be designed as a system not just interchangeable LEGO blocks.

Last edited 4 months ago by Rob
JimT
Reply to  Rob
8 July 2022 12:57 am

Red herring? White elephant?