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City recommends scaling back ballooning Preston Auditorium expansion project

Second NHL-size rink off the table in latest recommendation that caps project at $14.3 million
preston memorial arena
Preston Memorial Auditorium.

The city's plan to upgrade the Preston Memorial Auditorium, which saw costs nearly double from an approved $14 million budget in 2020, could mean recent add-ons like a second ice pad and parking lot expansion are off the table.

Cambridge recreation staff is now recommending going with the least expensive option to renovate and build upon what’s there while still taking into account several recommendations from community groups.

That option caps the project at $14.3 million for design and construction, but retains plans to renovate the existing ice pad to make it NHL size; building dedicated change rooms, office, training, laundry and storage for the Rivulettes; and creating dedicated office and storage space for Cambridge minor hockey.

The project would also add new dry land training and multi-purpose areas, renovate existing change rooms and washrooms, and upgrade the existing banquet hall and boardrooms.

Instead of adding a second ice pad now, staff want to take a staged approach to the project.

“Additions to the building will be master-planned and built in such a way that future addition of a new NHL ice pad would be as seamless as possible, and while factoring in viewing angles for spectators,” reads the report from the city’s director of recreation and culture Lesley Head.

She writes several factors led staff to want to scrap the twin-ice-pad option for now, the main one being an insufficient budget to adequately provide all the add ons recommended by user groups, including 1,000 square feet for change rooms, a wider and warmer lobby, and space for the Cambridge Sports Hall of Fame. Staff also struggled with the constrained access way for the ice resurfacer that couldn’t be resolved because of the high cost.

“Renovating the existing arena...will provide improvements to a facility that already has significant seating and will build upon existing character that contributes to atmosphere and sense of place,” Head writes.

Moving the project ahead with a full wish list from the community will cost the city more than double than what staff is recommending.

As for the Karl Homuth Arena, which was slated for demolition in a plan to add more parking spaces, the report recommends it be retained and continue to operate at current service levels.

The nearly 50-year-old facility lacks most modern standards and needs a new roof and electrical work, in addition to other repairs. To keep it operating, staff is recommending the city get an updated condition assessment to identify any urgent needs so they can be added to the budget.

Even with the project scaled back, the city will have to fund the majority of it by taking on debt.

Funding for the project would come from tax supported debentures in the amount of $11,850,363, and $2.5 million from development charges.

The full report, including all options, will be tabled for council consideration Thursday.