PLEASE NOTE: The images used here are preliminary artist's concepts only. They are not final or detailed designs.
The Town of Bridgewater is gauging interest in a proposal to repurpose Bridgewater Memorial Arena (BMA) and seeking public feedback on the proposed project.
In 2015, the Town Council of the day voted to close and decommission Bridgewater Memorial Arena. The arena had been a centre of ice sports and a gathering place for community organizations in Bridgewater dating back to the day its doors first opened in 1950.
Since closing to the public and going through the decommissioning process (the removal of ice-making equipment and heating other building infrastructure), the facility has been used laregly as a Parks storage facility for the town -- the continuation of a longstanding practice that pre-dates the closing of the area -- and as a training and exercise area for the Bridgewater Police Service. The grounds were also used in 2019 as a staging area for pipes that were installed during a water/wastewater upgrade project nearby on Dominion Street. This would not be a typical use associated with this property and was specific to the 2019 Dominion Street upgrade.
Meanwhile, in 2018 -- long after the arena had been closed and decommissioned -- the South Shore Players organization reached out to the Town's CAO to discuss the potential for finding a permanent home for the organization in the Town of Bridgewater. The Players have been coordinating and hosting theatrical programming at a variety of venues in Lunenburg County for the better part of 25 years. Keen to find a home, they saw the potential in the auditorium space "upstairs" at BMA to serve as a permanent base of operations for them, with the Players being a tenant.
Preliminary conceptual discussions involved a long-term plan to convert the entire arena into a performing arts facility, but as discussions progressed a refined plan focused on the auditorium level of the facility gained more traction.
TOWN NEEDS IDENTIFIED
During the 2019-20 budgeting process, staff brought to the attention of Town Council the operational necessity of a dedicated space for Parks equipment, staff, and vehciles. Staff also identified that in order to preserve our Bridgewater Transit buses, a long-term solution for the storage of transit buses when not in use is required. Currently, when not in use, Town of Bridgewater Transit buses are stored outdoors, exposed to the weather, at the Bridgewater Fire Hall.
At the time, staff floated two options for Town Council to consider:
1) Construction of a new combination Transit and Parks facility, built from the ground up.
2) Renovating and repurposing the Town-owned Bridgewater Memorial Arena to accommodate the needs of Transit and the Town's Parks Department and repurposing the "forward-facing" portion of the building for use by prospective public tenants to help build up our community.
In July 2019, Town Council directed staff to further explore the idea of renovating and repurposing Bridgewater Memorial Arena for the purposes of a combination Transit/Parks/Public facility. The first step of that exploration involved engaging the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre (AEC) to conduct a feasibility study. The outcomes of the study were to include:
- assessing both the capital and operating investment required to make such a facility a reality
- identifying potential funding partners and grant opportunities to assist in completing the capital portion of the project
- connecting with potential partner tenants and assesing their ability to contribute to the financial viability of the facility
- reviewing similar facilities throughout Nova Scotia, interviewing individuals associated with those facilities, and gathering information on successes and challenges
In the autumn of 2019, AEC engaged in extensive information gathering and, just prior to the end of the calendar year, presented the draft feasibility study to the Town.
You can download the AEC Feasibility Study document in its entirety by clicking here.
In general terms, the study indicated that the proposed project was, indeed, feasible -- particularly in recognition of the need for a deciated Transit and Parks facility for the Town and in comparison to the cost of building a new facility from scratch.
The study also indicated, however, that the proposal is not without its risks. For example, funding/grant programs that could assist in the capital construction costs of renovating the building are not guaranteed; potential tenants who were interviewed during the information-gathering phase have not formally committed to rental agreements yet; and, importantly, the Town had not yet engaged in any substantive effort to weigh the community's opinion on repurposing the Bridgewater Memorial Arena and the investment that it would require.
PROJECTED CAPITAL COSTS
Town staff have completed preliminary estimates of the options before Town Council. If Town Council chooses to move forward with the repurposing of BMA, in 2020-21 a firm would be engaged to draft refined and detailed renovation plans for the facility which would also provide refine costing. To that end, the following figures are "conservative" estimates projected by Town staff:
- Building of brand-new Transit/Parks facility with no public component: $2 million
- Demolition of Bridgewater Memorial Arena: $200,000 to $300,000
- Renovation of Bridgewater Memorial Arena for Transit/Parks facility AND public-facing tenant-ready space: $850,000
WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW?
In 2020 and 2021, Bridgewater Town Council committed approximately $150,000 and $115,000, respectively, to support the conversion of the BMA's former ice shed into a Bridgewater Transit bay and Parks staff facility, and to upgrade the walls and roof of the structure to ensure it remains sound.
In the early Fall of 2021, the Town of Bridgewater confirmed that it would be receiving up to $100,000 in Accessible Funding to allow the installation of a new accessible elevator between the first and second levels at the BMA. Staff are currently pursuing funding options with other levels of government and agencies that could allow Town Council to consider pursuing the public-facing component of Bridgewater Memorial Arena in the coming years at minimal cost to taxpayers.