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Aurora moves ball forward on adding a new gym to Stronach community centre
March 9, 2022

The town is moving toward adding a single gym to the Stronach Aurora Recreation Complex (SARC).

But two councillors argue it’s a bad move.

Council has approved proceeding with the gymnasium, multipurpose space and renovated customer service and administration space, arguing the new facilities are needed for the growing community.

Council would still have to approve a final design and updated cost estimate at a future meeting.

Coun. John Gallo and Coun. Wendy Gaertner are worried about the project.

With the pandemic boosting construction costs, Gallo argued building the gym doesn’t make sense now.

“The timing of this is not right. The costs of building this now is not necessary,” he said.

“I continue to believe we’re putting the Town of Aurora into further debt.”

While Coun. Michael Thompson said the project still needs final council approval; Gallo isn’t buying the argument that council would put the brakes on the project down the road.

In his experience, the chance of turning back after investing in preliminary work is “absolutely zero.”

The town plans further consultation with the public to determine what features residents would like to see in the gym and the programming they want.

Some sports groups have urged the town to approve two gyms, which a staff report agrees would allow for greater community use and argues is more costly, would have significant impacts on the floodplain and could require more parking on the site.

Community services director, Robin McDougall, wants to further explore working with the school boards about using their gym space but pointed out the town and community groups can be bumped last minute if schools need the facilities.

Also, a staff report said that school rental fees have increased in recent years to the point they are becoming unaffordable for community uses.

The town’s parks and recreation master plan in 2016 recommended the construction of an additional gym for community use.

“Current gymnasium space at Aurora Family Leisure Complex (AFLC) is well used and offers programs for all ages and abilities,” a staff report said.

“Pre-COVID, there were wait-lists or rentals that were turned away due to a lack of availability.”