Crews are set to arrive next week to start preparing Morrow Park for construction of a new $65.5-million twin-pad arena and library branch complex, a city official said.
“I am pleased to confirm that the project schedule is proceeding as planned — which was to begin construction this fall,” said project manager Gillian Barnes.
Barnes was speaking at a virtual meeting of the arenas, parks and recreation advisory committee on Wednesday evening.
Construction on the twin-pad — plus a 5,000-square-foot library branch to replace the permanently closed DelaFosse branch on Park Street South — is expected to take about two years, for an opening in 2024.
The location is at Lansdowne and Park streets on the west side of city-owned Morrow Park.
Barnes said that this week, city staff has been there removing bleachers, garbage and recycling bins and concrete barriers from the site in anticipation of construction crews arriving.
She expects crews from Ball Construction (or Kitchener) will be there next week to install fences and signs.
Further site preparation will take six to eight weeks, she said — that will involve stripping and removing topsoil, for instance.
Then the foundation will be built in November, Barnes said — just before winter.
“I’m pleased to say the project is proceeding as planned — on schedule, and is currently tracking on budget,” Barnes said at the meeting.
City council approved the location for the new complex in July 2021.
It is expected to include a twin-track arena, indoor walking track, multi-use space and the library branch.
The idea is to replace the now-demolished Northcrest Arena on Marina Boulevard at Water Street, which council closed permanently and then tore down last year due to structural issues.
The building will also have a library branch meant to replace the DelaFosse Library on Park Street North, closed in early 2020 for the COVID-19 pandemic and later discovered to have structural issues.
Council has been planning the new arena since 2015, changing locations twice before choosing Morrow Park: a first location at Trent University would have impinged on a provincially significant wetland, and the next-choice location of Fleming College didn’t work out as college officials decided in 2020 to pause development to deal with the financial fallout of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile Friends of Morrow Park, a group of neighboring residents, have told council they would prefer unspoiled green space to the twin-pad. This week neighbor Nicole MacDonald emailed all city councilors to ask them to reconsider the project.
MacDonald stated by email there has been “no transparency and no communication” with the neighbors about this project (although the city did have a virtual consultation and a survey was available in spring 2021, some neighbors said it was insufficient).
MacDonald suggests that instead of building the complex the city could convert Morrow Park into an “oasis” of pollinator gardens, fruit trees, ponds and bridges.
“A backdrop like this could bring in huge revenue, be a wonderful spot for photos, an exciting backdrop for the Peterborough Agricultural Society and the farmers’ market,” she wrote.
The Peterborough Agricultural Society canceled the annual agricultural fair in Morrow Park in August, and society president Viren D’Souza told The Examiner in June that into the future, people ought to expect single-day events held throughout the year at various locations rather than the traditional four-day Ex in the park.
D’Souza said the main reason for the change is the redevelopment of Morrow Park, which will mean less room for the Ex and its associated parking.
However, city communications manager Brendan Wedley said in June the Agricultural Society was consulted throughout the planning process for the new twin-pad, and that about half the 27-acre park is being left as green space that will be available for the Ag Society’s use .