There are no immediate solutions, but Tuesday night’s public meeting regarding the future of the Pepsi Centre offered a few firm first steps in the process.
Responsible for the major maintenance and capital improvements for the facility, the City of Corner Brook contracted a consultancy service — Mott MacDonald — to review the feasibility of such renovations. The purpose of the meeting was to provide an opportunity for user groups and other interested parties to voice their concerns and ideas on the present and future of the 17-year-old facility.
“It was great to hear from community members, from council, from the stakeholders of this building,” said Corner Brook Minor Hockey Association president Cara-Leigh Wyllie.
The forum was divided into four topics — strengths of the building, current challenges, ideal future needs and threats that would prevent those ideal needs. Through it all, there was very little in the way of surprising suggestions — most of it had likely been heard around the city before, but not by the hired consultants until this point.
Wyllie believes the fact that a meeting seeking public opinion took place at all was reason for optimism.
“We have to think positive,” she said. “This is our community centre and we want to make it work for many groups for years to come.”
Humber Community YMCA CEO Christine Young said she came to the meeting as more of a listener, to hear what the community’s views were on the usage of the building. She thought the conversation was a little weighted towards sport and not community recreation overall, but still felt it was kept fairly balanced.
“Showing an interest in getting community feedback is certainly a great first step in determining the best way for this to contribute and help recreation in Corner Brook,” she said.
Whether that could involve the YMCA’s presence in the future, Young couldn’t say.
“That could be determined,” she said. “I think a lot will depend on the report that’s put together by the consultants.”
Most of the discussion revolved around how to best use the already available space in the Pepsi Centre and Pepsi Studio, though other offerings varied from establishing a restaurant in the mostly-empty upstairs area of the main building to the construction of a swimming pool.
Safety hazards, necessary technological advances in purchasing event tickets and even the “utilitarian” atmosphere of the structure were also brought up, but the majority seemed to be in agreement the building needs to house a major tenant.
“The idea of a tenant doesn’t necessarily have to be a sports tenant,” said Corner Brook Mayor Charles Pender at the end of the meeting. “It could be a child-care space, a doctor’s office, a suite of offices ... whatever it is, to have that consistent revenue.”
Of course, it’s all conjecture until the consultant’s report is complete, which actually shouldn’t take all that long, according to Leon Higgins.
“We’re going to move rapidly,” said the divisional director with Mott MacDonald. “We’ve been asked to come up with some output by the end of the month.”
He cautions his company’s job is strictly to file the report. The difficult part comes later.
“We’re filling up a bucket, we don’t know what the budget is the city has yet,” he said. “We’ll have to come up with a menu and they’ll set the priorities on the menu with things to pick off first.
“There will be a joint vision coming out of that, I hope, that addresses the needs that we’re hearing.”
Pender echoed those comments, saying the city will have to base all decisions on available money and which renovations or improvements are deemed reasonable. Then it becomes an issue of how to phase those changes in.
But the first stage in any of that was Tuesday night’s meeting.
“It’s like a ‘Field of Dreams’ — build it and they will come,” Pender said. “Well, we built it, it’s here. Now we want to know, is there something else we can do to get more people to come?”