Work toward a new hall continues

Once upon a time, the Ritchie board dreamed of improving its hall. Well, the dream hasn’t died! It drives volunteers on the Ritchie Hall Revitalization Committee, which was struck in 2014 to suss out options. The committee reported on its work at the May 2019 AGM.

The current idea is to leave the existing hall in place while a new hall is built roughly where the basketball court and rink currently sit. The rink would be rebuilt on the tennis courts and they, in turn, would be rebuilt on the site of the old hall, once programs move into the new building and the old is torn down. The early cost estimate for this multi-phase redevelopment is $2 - 3.8 million.

That’s a long way from the initial idea, which was to simply renovate the hall.

“We couldn’t get a clear answer on how much a retrofit would cost and that made the committee uncomfortable,” says Jeff Ollis, committee chair. A sinking floor and walls filled with asbestos were part of the problem. So, the committee turned its attention to building something new within the confines of the area it licenses from the city.

Here’s where things stand on the idea to redevelop the whole site :

Since April, Ritchie’s strategic plan has been making the rounds through City of Edmonton departments. Parks, Transportation etc. will look for issues the league needs to resolve BEFORE applying for a development permit.

“We’re totally on board with this process,” says Jeff. “It is being circulated, but we need to hear back from the City before we can proceed.”

This is the second time Ritchie has prepared extensive documents for City approval, but the process is new since the first time. And that’s not the only shifting sands the committee has had to negotiate. Others include provincial and federal elections that changed what grants are available. The league’s board itself has changed five times and, at least once, done an about face on the project’s scope.

The first proposal, in 2015, was to build a two-storey hall where the old now sits and put programs in church basements for 12-18 months during construction. Even adding the second storey, the hall would have been smaller than the existing one because there is simply no room to gain space except up, which is costly.

“The new board came in and said, ‘Are you kidding? You can see the growth (in young families) and enthusiasm (for a new hall) in the community,’” says Jeff. That set the committee on the path it is now on.

Once City approval of the strategic plan is in place, the committee will move on to developing a business case and concept drawing for redeveloping the entire site. The design phase for the actual hall is at least a year away. As always, the final decision for what ultimately gets built rests, not with the RHRC committee, with the community league board itself.

To be continued...