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Consultant to review if Hillcrest Sports Centre worth saving

With the main tenant of Hillcrest Sports Centre finding a new home, an opportunity has arisen for community groups to relocate to a building with plenty of space
City hall summer
City hall was built between 1912 and 1914. Photo by Jason G. Antonio

With the main tenant of Hillcrest Sports Centre finding a new home, an opportunity has arisen for community groups to relocate to a building with plenty of space.

Gymtastiks informed the City of Moose Jaw on Oct. 20 that, due to tough economic times and the building’s uncertain future, the group was terminating its lease as of Jan. 1, 2021, and moving elsewhere.

The municipality entered into a lease agreement with Gymtastiks on Oct. 16, 2011, for the building’s exclusive use. The organization paid an annual rental fee of $1 and could sub-let the building to third parties to generate extra revenue to manage the centre’s operations.

Since then, the tennis club and a baseball academy have become sub-tenants, while Hillcrest Golf rents space year-round.  

City council discussed the lease termination and the building’s future during the Nov. 23 executive committee meeting. Council learned that city administration plans to have a consultant assess the building’s condition soon, with an assessment report to come to council in December.

A council report explained that since no extra funds have been requested in the 2021 budget to operate the centre, a plan is needed since the municipality will be responsible for its costs on Jan. 1, 2021.

City administration estimates that $40,000 to $50,000 in rental revenues would be needed for a balanced budget.

Building condition

The city constructed Hillcrest Sports Centre in 1968 and completed roof repairs in 1995 and 1996. Many of the main mechanical and electrical systems are original and past usefulness, a council report explained. Small additions have been made, such as a golf shop, a golf maintenance building and storage buildings.

The municipality last assessed the building’s condition in 2002, which means information about the centre is dated, Derek Blais, director of parks and recreation, told council. The consultant will assess the building’s condition and air quality to ensure it remains useable. If it can’t be saved, then city hall wants to know how many years are left.

Gymstatiks — which has a membership between 500 and 1,000 participants — has made many improvements since 2011, he added. Now that the organization is leaving, six new community groups — along with the tennis and baseball clubs — have inquired about taking over the lease.

Council discussion

The concrete floor at Hillcrest Sports Centre is allegedly in good condition, and with concrete expensive to pour, the building could house the ever-popular pickleball, said Coun. Heather Eby. Furthermore, she knows some service groups are looking to share space, so the potential exists for them to move there.

“Right now, with all the schools unavailable, there are a lot of groups looking for space to be active,” she added. “I think it is so important that as a council that we provide those options to people. Not just for physical health, but mental health is important (as well), that they can get out and do as much as they can.”

Coun. Jamey Logan wondered how leases would look in the future and whether there would be one anchor tenant or whether city hall would handle many different leases.

It’s important to have a prime tenant willing to lease to other organizations — as Gymtastiks did — to maximize the building’s use, said Blais. Similar examples of sub-letting include Ross Wells Field and Hamilton Flats.

“While I like to support user groups and eight different folks that want to be part of it, I would hazard a caution with long-term leases because of what will happen when COVID goes away,” said Logan. “Suddenly, those folks are allowed to get back into schools and gymnasiums for $20 a night compared to $1,000 a month.”

That’s an issue the parks department is handling, said Blais. Many leases have had annual renewals, but the department likes to have five-year agreements with options to renew twice more.

The next regular council meeting is Monday, Dec. 7.

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