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$75M community centre plan could squeeze out local baseball, says BWG councillor

Specific plans for existing Bradford West Gwillimbury community centre and curling club under consideration for expansion or redevelopment

A $75-million “shopping list” for a new Bradford & District Memorial Community Centre could bench local baseball if the ball diamonds there are eliminated, said a couple Bradford West Gwillimbury councillors Tuesday.

In the proposed plan, the centre’s two baseball diamonds are taken out — with relocation plans in place, and a new diamond to be constructed at Joe Magani Park this fall, plus two more in the works.

“I have received a lot of concerns from different businesses and the baseball community. The baseball diamond — you talk about history — it’s been there forever,” said Coun. Peter Dykie Jr. “I’m not in favour of the overall plan. I don’t want to see the baseball fields lost. There are businesses that depend on … baseball and soccer.”

The proposal for a new community centre, which was built in 1956, keeps a field on the property for Timbits soccer.

Coun. Gary Baynes, back at his first council meeting since May, after recovering from complications from minor surgery, said he hopes the plan can include a diamond for kids’ baseball.

“I wish we could’ve saved or squeezed in … something like the Timbits soccer for little kids. I would love to see a kids diamond, as well as the Timbits soccer, at the community centre,” he said.

Removing the baseball diamonds was a “significant consideration” for town staff, said Terry Foran, BWG’s director of community services.

The current setup does not allow for baseball play for all ages, he said, adding adult play has had to move out of the park.

A space for T-ball could be included in the proposed plan because it requires less room than a baseball diamond, he added.

“These are full considerations of the potential of what this property could be,” he said.

Town staff would like to see a brand new baseball diamond for all ages to be a more efficient use of space, he said, noting there are still 20 hectares at Henderson Park left to develop and “endless opportunities” there.

An exact costing plan for the full project is expected to come to council in early 2019, said Geoff McKnight, the town’s CAO, noting the proposed plan is not set in stone.

“This is more of a shopping list,” he said. “The next step is to pick out the pieces council wants to deal with.”

BWG council accepted a report on the proposed plan Tuesday and authorized town staff to continue discussions with the County of Simcoe about developing affordable housing on the site.

The town has proposed 50 to 55 affordable housing units on about one hectare of land, Foran said.

Coun. Raj Sandhu said he has received mixed reactions from residents about the potential for affordable housing on the site.

“The picture we have in our mind is not the actual… I don’t think it’s going to bring property values down,” he said.

The project’s overall $75-million price tag includes $55 million just for a proposed civic hub, which would be nearly 22,000 square metres in size.

Currently, the seven-hectare property is occupied by the community centre, Bradford Curling Club, two tennis courts, two ball diamonds, a skatepark, full soccer pitch and a number of mini-pitches.

The preferred option presented to council envisions the redevelopment of the property:

  • New open areas for passive recreation
  • Splash pad
  • Outdoor performance space
  • Rain gardens to help control flooding
  • Walking trails
  • New civic hub that would house the town’s administration offices and social services
  • New basketball court, tennis court and skatepark
  • An area for affordable housing located in the southwest corner of the property

Extensive parking is also proposed, including 505 above-ground spots and 250 underground spots beneath the civic hub.

In the proposal, the mini-pitches are retained, but both the full-sized field and the ball diamonds would be relocated, and the number of tennis courts would be cut by 50 per cent.

A new Celebration Park would be constructed, with three different areas: open flex space for sports and recreation, event stage with naturalized seating, and a children’s playground and benches.

The civic hub could include administration space and a new council chambers for the town, as well as flex space that could be rented.

The specifics on what will happen to the community centre and Bradford Curling Club, which are on privately owned land, are still under consideration.

The recommendation from MHBC Planning consultants, which were hired by the town, is to rebuild the community centre — cheaper than modernizing the existing facilities, according to a MHBC presentation — and integrate elements of the existing building into the new design.

Town staff are also working with the Bradford Curling Club to relocate the rink, potentially in the civic hub.

In response to residents’ concerns about changing the community centre, MHBC is protecting it and the curling rink in its design for future expansion or redevelopment, to be decided by council at a later date, according to its presentation.

“The community centre itself is something that needs to be addressed in this project before we start looking all around it,” said Coun. Peter Ferragine.

Jenni Dunning

About the Author: Jenni Dunning

Jenni Dunning is a community editor and reporter who covers news in the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury.
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