Excavators have been brought in to do earthworks and prepare a site in the south end of Guelph, Ont. for a long-anticipated, multi-purpose recreation centre with twin ice pads and a double gymnasium.
The $115.5-million facility, known as the South End Community Centre (SECC), will be a 160,000-square-foot venue consisting of two large structures connected by a central lobby. It will feature an aquatic centre with a competitive and recreational pool, running and walking track and multi-purpose rooms.
Shovels went into the ground in October. Construction manager Aquicon Construction Ltd. is currently getting the site ready for installation of foundations. Completion of the project is set for the second half of 2026.
“The project has been in the plans for 20 years within the city and it’s exciting for all those involved to be part of the team that gets to build this new, exciting facility,” says Ian Scott, manager of facility design and construction in the city’s infrastructure, development, and enterprise department.
The SECC is located on city-owned lands along Poppy Drive south of Clair Road, immediately south of Bishop Macdonell High School. It will connect with the South End Community Park and Larry Pearson baseball diamonds.
The facility is being built to accommodate anticipated development of the Clairfields area of Guelph that will see 16,000 or more people living between Clair and Maltby roads at the city’s southern boundary over the next 15 years.
“The new South End Community Centre has been in the city’s parks and recreation master plan since the early 2000s,” says Scott.
“The south end of the city is projected to have intense growth in the upcoming years and this space is not only required to maintain recreation service levels within the city as per the parks and recreation master plan, but also provide equitable access to the services for residents located in the south end of Guelph.”
The centre will also be an integral part of the city’s net-zero carbon and renewable energy goals as it will generate 62 per cent energy savings and 85 per cent savings in greenhouse gas emissions and meet the Canada Green Building Council’s Zero Carbon Building – Design Standard. The city’s goal is to get all its energy from renewable sources by 2050.
Renderings of the structure show a sleek-looking complex with two ice pads at one end. A second area features the two large gymnasiums adjacent to each other, with two 25-metre-long pools in a third area. There will be an expansive entranceway with ample parking and greenspace around the massive structure.
“The building is a metal-sided, steel-frame building with concrete foundations,” explains Scott. “The building has a high efficiency envelope to help lower the overall energy demand and operating costs of the building.”
The SECC was first envisioned in 2003 and was included as part of the city’s recreation master plan in 2009. A site selection and needs feasibility study was done in 2014 and a detailed design was started in 2018.
Construction was approved in October 2020 with a budget of $80 million, but it was delayed due to COVID-19 and as a result of inflation experienced in the construction sector, the tender for the SECC was released as a stipulated price contract in late 2021 but came in 50 per cent over budget.
The project team worked with the construction manager to successfully address inflationary cost pressures by completing a rigorous value engineering exercise with the architect and adjusting construction methods and materials but was still able to retain esthetic and sustainability goals of the project.
The city changed the delivery model of the project to construction management in March 2023 and another $35.5 million was added to the budget. A revised schedule and amount were approved, and the project was re-tendered. The cost-reduction strategies included simplifying the architecture and building envelope and specifying the use of alternative materials for interior spaces.
Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie, who ran on bringing the project to fruition, says he is glad to see the SECC finally get off the ground.
“This long-awaited centre has been a focus of mine and my fellow council members for many years, and it’s finally becoming a reality. The centre will provide a much-needed community space and recreation amenities in Guelph’s south end for people of all ages and abilities to connect, play and explore.”
At the recent groundbreaking ceremony, Guthrie noted the SECC has been promised for a long time, so he’s glad the project is underway, especially after COVID put a wrench into the plan.
“Not only did it hurt with the trades, with the materials, but also with the costs. All of that contributed to a moment where it became a very difficult project.”