Imagine the Future of the Fort William Gardens – Shelby Ch’ng

Candidate's Ledger Thunder Bay Civic Election 2014
Candidate's Ledger Thunder Bay Civic Election 2014
Fort William Gardens is nearing the end of its life-span. What should happen next?
Fort William Gardens is nearing the end of its life-span. What should happen next?

Northwood Candidate Looks at Fort William Gardens

THUNDER BAY – Civic Politics – The Fort William Gardens is home to so many childhood memories.  My favourite memories consist of the Great Lakes Athletic Association Christmas parties and the pile of presents in the center of the floor.  Clowns would dance and sing and Santa would come out at the end and the universe all made sense.  Another great memory was taking my nephew to see his first circus.  Have you ever had to get a three year old to sit still?  That circus did it… complete magic!  There are so many memories that it is difficult to recall them all.  Fast forward to today.  All were invited to participate in a discussion involving the future of my sentimental landmark.  I attended the event, not knowing what to expect but found myself surrounded by people who really care about the Fort William Gardens just as much as I do.

The premise of the questions around future use of the building was in light of a new event centre being built.  We were all asked to imagine what we would like to see in the Fort William Gardens space.  I think I can speak for most when I say that the majority of people in attendance were against tearing it down and building a parking lot.  Whew! Ok! Now we can all be friends.  So what to do we want to see happen with this building?  There were five proposed options for reconfiguration.

  1. Leave it as is with ice
  2. Remove the rink boards, a few seats and make it a flat floor surface
  3. Remove majority of seats (keeping the ones by the curling club)
  4. Remove all seats and create a large open space
  5. Remove all seats and make a lower level parking lot with a floor above for multi-use activities

There were drawings that went along with this presentation of the options.  You can find the drawings here

My thoughts…

Option 1: It turns out that option 1 will end up costing tax payers an approximate $600,000/year* (mainly in the cost of ice maintenance).  In the event that there is a new event centre, I do not think that this is the best use of taxpayer’s dollars.

Option 2: Why would we keep the seats if it is no longer a spectator sport facility?  You might think it is a good place for concerts.  The sound is horrible in the building.  When I watch Thunderwolves games I can barely make out the music with the echo.  I can say with confidence that option 2 would be out for me.

Option 3:  This is my second favourite option.  I like the open space for possible programs to do their thing while having some seating available.  I am thinking something along the lines of dance classes or martial arts classes and having a few spectators/parents watch.  I am not rooting for this option but I can see how it would work.

Option 4:  I am a fan of wide open spaces and a blank canvas, but 40,000 square feet of nothing is very difficult to fill.  I say no to this one too.

Option 5: Lower level parking and an upper floor, I think, would be the most ideal.  Most ideas from the participants came with this option.  The parking helps with the cost of the building.  With the ice gone and parking on the main level I can see how this would go from a tax dollar vortex to breaking even or putting the building operating costs in the black.  I obviously don’t have all the numbers to crunch but can see potential in making a buck or two for the city which means lower taxes for us.  Upstairs could either be the permanent home of the Farmer’s Market or a conference centre that can be utilized by groups such as the Chamber of Commerce for their shows.  So far, to me this option makes the most sense.  It keeps the building intact and I find myself wanting to make new memories in this historical building.

What are your thoughts?

Shelby Ch’ng, H.B.A. – Candidate for Northwood 2014

Mayor Hobbs and Peace Walk Organizer Shelby Ch'ng share a smile
Mayor Hobbs and Peace Walk Organizer Shelby Ch’ng share a smile

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