Duvall says land purchase from school board may be necessary
By Mark Newman, News Staff
The City of Hamilton may have to purchase some Hill Park high school land from the public school board to keep the Hill Park Recreation Centre open.
“We know we would need an estimated five acres,” said Ward 7 councillor Scott Duvall, who has vowed to keep the busy central Mountain recreation centre going.
“You’re looking at approximately a couple million dollars just for the land purchase,” Duvall said.
He noted the city owns about a half acre of land where the rec centre building sits and since 1973 when the rec centre opened the municipality has had an agreement with the school board to use the two gymnasiums at the attached high school next door.
The future use of the gymnasiums is in question after the school board closed the high school this past June although the board has agreed to keep those gyms open for rec centre use through the 2014-2015 school year.
Duvall said the city is looking at a number of options including purchasing the school building and maintaining the two gyms while finding other uses for the rest of the facility, tearing down the school building but keeping the gymnasiums or tearing down the school building and building new gymnasiums.
“We’re looking at basically those three things,” said Duvall, who noted the rec centre’s tennis courts and parking lot are also on school board land.
The councillor doesn’t think building a new recreation centre on the site is feasible.
“I’d rather maintain what we have and keep it going,” Duvall said.
According to numbers provided by the city, there were nearly 7,100 drop in visits to the rec centre’s aquatics programs during the spring session and there were more than 900 visits to the gymnasiums and other activity areas for basketball, volleyball, badminton, zumba and other programs.
Chris Herstek, the city’s director of operations and recreation, said public works staff is expected to bring back a report in the New Year regarding alternatives for the rec centre.
He noted they have to wait for the school board to deem the land surplus to its needs before considering any options.
“The ball is really in the school board’s court,” Herstek said.
School board spokesperson Jackie Penman said the land selling process has been delayed until zoning matters with the city for the new south Mountain school are worked out which is not expected until around next spring.
The city is among the so called “preferred agencies” that would have the first opportunity to make a purchase offer once the land is deemed surplus by the school board.