Residents debate multi-purpose recreation centre

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A small minority of residents attending a Region of Queens public meeting Sept. 11 were concerned about the risk involved with building the proposed $20-million Queens Place Multi-Purpose Centre.

Most, however, seem to want council to move full steam ahead.

John Winters raised concerns about the effects of fundraising for the centre on community groups and charities that are also fundraising. He added he continually hears rumours Bowater Mersey Paper Co. Ltd. in Brooklyn might close. “What concerns me is the absence of a what-if scenario if everything goes wrong.”

Deputy Mayor Adams said the Region built a call centre building for $2-million, which was also a small risk at the time. “That facility is almost paid for and is an asset to the Municipality of Queens.”

Donovan, under questioning, also said recreation facilities are important to companies that might wish to set up shop in southern Queens because employees are attracted to areas with such services.

Kris Snarby said the facility would help bring young people and families back to the area.

David Young said Queens County is becoming a well-known tourism destination because, in part, of its festivals and cultural events. “A facility like this will draw people to use it.”

Arena manager Mike Langille added sports facilities through crowded tournaments and other events create economic spin-offs as well. Health through increased physical activity was also mentioned.

Beulah Jollimore, a resident who lives near the proposed site that is adjacent to Exit 19 on Highway 103, said she was concerned about buffer zones between area homes and the centre. Deputy Mayor Adams promised residents would be contacted.

Others were concerned construction and operating costs would end up being higher than stated and that fees for facilities that establish lease agreements would also be too high for people to pay.

Donovan said fees would be similar to those charged by facilities in other communities.

Mayor John Leefe pointed out it would cost at least $10-million to build a new arena alone and that taxpayers purchased a $100,000 chiller this year to keep the arena going a little longer. “That is going to continue to be the story of that facility. It has no future.”

He added councillors realize the centre is a “huge challenge” but “We can’t go back. We can’t stand pat. There is only going forward.”

Deputy Mayor Adams said in 1972, he and 18 other Spryfield Lions Club members put up their homes as collateral to build the community a new arena. “In 1978, we burned the mortgage. It (Queens Place) will work.”

Organizations: Bowater Mersey Paper Co., Spryfield Lions Club

Geographic location: Brooklyn, Southern Queens, Queens

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