by RON SEYMOUR Feb 4, 2022 Updated Feb 4, 202 | from

One of the first tasks for Kelowna city councillors, as they plan a possible rebuild of the Parkinson rec centre, is where to put it.

North of Mill Creek, or south of Mill Creek.

Right next to a potential new high school, or far away from it.

About the only certainty is that the new rec centre won’t infringe on the riparian corridor and flood plain of the creek itself, which bisects the 46-acre property on a north-east to south-west diagonal course.

Picking the location of the proposed new rec centre — which currently carries an estimated cost of $134 million, making it the most expensive project in the city’s history — is not a simple matter akin to throwing a dart at a dartboard.

The siting of the new centre will impact many things, such as road accesses, the size of the necessary parking lots, transit routes, actual construction costs, and the number and location of other amenities such as tennis and pickleball courts, playing fields and lacrosse boxes.

Councillors will engage in a Monday morning workshop at City Hall to begin hashing out these issues, providing staff with the direction to engage in more detailed work in the months ahead.

Considering a range of factors, city staff indicate a slight preference for building the new rec centre north of the creek and next to the proposed high school, an option they refer to as the "co-located campus model."

Some benefits of this approach, city staff say, are the creation of a “safe, pedestrian-focused campus," with the opportunity for shared city and school use of fields and gyms, closer proximity to the popular Okanagan Rail Trail, and reduced need for new parking spaces because the school lot would be mostly empty in the evenings.

Under the "separate sites model," in which the new rec centre would be built alongside Harvey Avenue at the southern edge of the property, there would be less immediate impact to amenities already on the site, city staff say. This location would also be more convenient to the many rec centre users who arrive via the RapidBus route along Harvey, staff say.

In either scenario, the plan is to keep the existing Parkinson rec centre open while construction of the new one proceeds.

Trustees with Central Okanagan Public Schools hope to build a new high school immediately west of the Apple Bowl, but they do not yet have provincial funding approval. Regardless of when that approval comes, city staff say the "co-located" campus model is feasible because the two buildings could be built at different times.

While the city is barrelling ahead with its planning for the new recreation centre, some form of voter approval will be necessary because the project anticipates considerable long-range borrowing. Options for the city are to hold a referendum or use the alternate approval process, under which the project will automatically go ahead unless 10% of city voters sign counter-petitions within an as-yet specified one-month period.

The likelihood is the city will use the alternate approval process since no major capital project has been put to referendum in Kelowna since the city's plan for a new hockey rink was defeated in 1988.